It was really satisfying to complete the Pemi loop in a single day. 30 miles, 8 four thousand footer peaks1, and about 10k in total elevation gain covered in 12 hours and 30 minutes. We went counter clockwise this year and that seems like the right call now that I’ve tried it in both directions.
I went clockwise for my first attempt with some friends on May 25th, 2019. Conditions in late May were rough – lots of ice monorail, lots of mud. It was slow going as we slipped and post holed our way over the terrain. After summiting Garfield we made the difficult decision to bail and cut the loop short to get back to the trailhead before dark. It was the smart decision — even after cutting it short, we were out on the trail for over 15 hours last year.
But the failure lingered. It was difficult last year but it could have been done. We were all carrying too much weight. We wasted time for breaks on the summits. We didn’t have trekking poles or microspikes. So it was stuck in my head that we had messed it up and should have finished, despite the shitty conditions.
Now? I see things in a different light. Conditions were perfect this year. My pack was much lighter. I jogged the parts that were jog-able. And it was still a slog to make good time. It made me appreciate how much ground we covered in adverse conditions last year. It seems more impressive after travsersing those same stretches in favorable conditions. I’m not sure how we covered the stretch between Lafayette and Garfield last year, if I’m being honest. That part of the loop is gnarly on a good day.
All in all, it was a great day this year. I might now be low-key addicted to long trail runs / hikes. I want to plan another one already.
Musings from the experience
When I’m on a long run or running a race, I tend to play a lot of mind games with myself to push through the difficult parts. I was hiking with 3 friends2 and we fell into a good rhythm of making jokes and keeping spirits up. Just enough bullshitting. You don’t want it to be incessant. Some periods of quiet are nice while you’re out enjoying nature. But long stretches of silence get weird too. Depends on the group but we had it working for us.
I’m only including this section in my recap because I don’t think this gets talked about enough. Whenever you’re doing something hard, you need to find a way to keep your spirits up. If you get broken mentally, it is over even if you have more left in the tank physically.
For me, that’s sarcasm, dark humor, and leaning into all the adversity. Verbally acknowledge and attack the pain before it can sneak up and attack you.
My darkest point was in that stretch from Garfield to Lafayette. My quads were shot. I couldn’t tell if they were cramping or overly fatigued. But they weren’t working very well with a lot of climbling left to do. I started to get dropped by my friends. My stomach was off.
I kept thinking of this quote from Deena Kastor’s book.
There’s good and bad patches in a race and it’s your job to get out of the bad patches as quickly as possible and hang on to the good ones.3
So I stopped for moment. Drank the rest of my water. Choked down some salty honey roasted nut mix. Had a tylenol. Cranked up Run The Jewels 3 and got back to it. I didn’t fully get a second wind until reaching the top of Lafayette but it turned the tide enough to catch back up to everyone.
I had randomly started doing quick “captain’s log” videos whenever we reached a summit. It gave me something to focus on while hiking. What was recap worthy for my next log? They were mostly quick babbling nonsense but, again, having something to occupy your mind helps!
My pack loaded up with food and water was a little over 10 lbs. I’m pretty happy with that. I could trim weight a bit on future trips but I doubt I’m getting below 7-8 lbs in any scenario.
Here is a quick list of what I took:
- Vagabond Jet pack4 with a waist belt, 1L smartwater bottle, .5L powerade bottle, 2L bladder for filling, Sawyer micro filter, food (more on that below), long sleeve layer, Houdini jacket, basic first aid stuff, extra battery, iPhone, ID, small bottle of deet, sunglasses, map.
Here is what I wore:
- Trail running shoes, dirty girl gaiters, injinji socks, Patagonia strider pro shorts, light athletic polo from Uniqlo (I liked having the collar for sun protection), running hat, buff.
Things I’d do differently next time:
- Use a real running vest. A Salomon, in all likelihood. I could probably save a half pound. But more importantly, it seems like a much more comfortable and nimble way to carry the weight. My pack was fine but better weight distribution would be nice on steep inclines or declines.
- Change my hydration supplies. I’d use the soft bottles that come with running vests and bring a Katadyn BeFree .6L filter. The flow rate is noticeably faster than the Sawyer and it’s simpler than carrying all the other stuff.
- Skip carrying the extra long sleeve. Not necessary on a nice day and if the weather turned the Houdini shell would be enough.
- Skip carrying the extra battery. My iPhone battery was fine. I had it in airplane mode and used GPS constantly (Strava and Gaia). I ended with ~35% battery after almost 13 hours.
- I also might invest in a Coros Apex GPS watch given their insane battery life and I wouldn’t have to rely on my iPhone for GPS tracking.
- Slim down my first aid kit. Not a lot too remove here but I had a bulky leatherman in there. At a minimum, I should bring a smaller, lighter multi tool or skip it all together.
- Bring lightweight trekking poles. I went back and forth on bring poles a lot and decided it against it because mine aren’t that light and I didn’t have a good way to attach to my pack. But lighter poles on a pack with attachments? Yes, please. I could have used the help on the various ascents.
- Keep stuff in dry bag or ziplock. Sweating through my pack and getting everything wet wasn’t ideal.
- Keep empty food wrappers in a separate bag for trash. I ended up with drink powder all over stuff. Meh.
Happy with my supplies and overall weight… but always nicer to be lighter and more nimble. I feel close to having this fully dialed in.
This went okay but not particularly well. I’m not a huge breakfast person but I forced myself to choke down a lot when I woke up at 4am to fill up the tank, so to speak. A coffee, a gatorade, a muffin, a clif bar, and a baby pouch may have been too much. I felt a litle off jogging the first few easy miles but it wasn’t a huge deal. Probably better to have gotten the calories than not.
I tried to map out how much food I needed to carry but I still brought too much.
Here is what I brought (nets to almost 3,000 calories):
- 4 clif bars, 4 GU roctane powder mixes, 4 GU gels, 2 baby pouches, 1 bag of honey roasted nut mix, 1 bag of watermelon gummies, 1 5 hour energy.
And here is what I didn’t end up consuming:
- 2 clif bars, 1 GU roctane powder mix, 2 GU gels.
Things I’d do differently next time:
- Fewer clif bars. They just never seemed that appealing. Carrying 1-2 still seems worth it given that they pack in calories and are easy to nibble on.
- Rely less on powder carbohydrate drink mixes. I thought this was going to be great. Less weight (just add water!) and I’m getting calories and hydrating as I sip. But it turns out, it would have been really nice to have plain old water at certain junctures. I didn’t want the sweet mix but I had mixed all my water with it… 🤦♂️.
- More stuff without caffeine in it. My powder mix and gels both had a small amount of caffeine in them. I’d rather have those without caffeine and bring another 5 hour or caffeine pills so I can get a real strong shot when I need it vs. a steady drip.
But the gummies were great. The salty nut mix hit the spot. The baby pouches ruled. I wish they were lighter. I’d just bring a ton of them.
All in all, I don’t need quite as much fuel as I thought. Pure water is good – my sweat was so salty at parts I feel like I may have had too much sodium in me. I need to do a better job of forcing down a solid quantity of water when refilling so I’m not as reliant on only what I’m carrying too.
Some random quick hits:
- Bodyglide or other anti-chaffe things are my friend. I mostly think I got burned here because my sweat was so salty but no reason not to be precautious on future outings.
- Take more photos. I was too focused on moving, moving, moving. Gorgeous day in scenic terrain and I don’t have a lot to show for it.
- Start without water if there is a reliable water source within a few miles of the trailhead. I didn’t need the extra weight for those first few miles.
- Jog the easy parts a little faster. I’m a good runner. Cruising flat parts at ~9 minute per mile pace isn’t going to hurt me and it can knock off a good chunk of time.
- Test gear beforehand. My filter was being a little iffy early on. Everyone I was with also had a filter so it wasn’t a big deal. But a good reminder to test important items before you’re out on the trail. I won’t always be so lucky.
- Bring crocs for after. My feet wanted something comfy badly. Yoga toes would have also been clutch.
- Make sure I have access to my own post-run beers. We put a cooler in another friend’s car but then finished before them. Not ideal.
Lastly, I’m definitely going to make the captain’s log videos a thing on trips or runs or hike or whatever going forward. I do enjoy writing up recaps (well… duh) but I don’t always do it. I started recording them as a joke and it ended up being a cool way to relive the experience. I’d like to make that a habit for any noteworthy experiences so I have something around to remember them by when I don’t bother writing it up.
The people who do FKT (fastest known time) attemps on the Pemi loop are a different animal. The men’s time was recently lowered to 5 hours and 42 minutes by Ben Thompson. I cannot even fathom it. I think if I trained properly, cut some weight, and had a good day… I could probably flirt with going under 10 hours. Sub-6 is so, so fast over that terrain. I don’t even understand how it works or how it is possible.
We also met a woman in the parking lot who informed us that she was attempting a “double single season.” We later learned this meant that she is going to try to get all 48 four thousand foot peaks in NH twice within the summer season. She is already at 21 of 96. So crazy.
This activity was the least quarantined I’ve been during the pandemic. It felt a little irresponsible in some regards. But it was amazing to have a normal seeming day again. The risk of outdoor transmission seems low. We kept a lot of space between ourselves and others. It was needed. It was worth it.
I’m proud of myself for getting it done. My running mileage has been way down since COVID came into the picture. I haven’t really done any hiking or hill work. I’ve gained 5-10 lbs from my usual fighting weight. Basically, there was plenty of evidence to suggest this wasn’t a great time to make the attempt. I’m glad I was able to fight through and finish it in a decent time, all things considered.
Maybe I can find a way to do a Presi traverse this fall??
I find myself literally running errands with some frequency lately. This has been an unexpected perk of becoming a single car family since November 2018.
For instance, this morning I needed to drop our car off to be serviced. I dropped off the car at 8:15am and enjoyed a nice 7 mile run home. I was going to run today anyways. Two birds, one stone.
Or when my wife was pregnant with our son last spring, it was often more convenient to run the 4 miles to meet her at the OBGYN offices rather than making her come by and pick me up or spending money on an uber / lyft.
I started out of necessity but now I look for opportunities to pair my run with another chore I need to do. Pick up stamps? Why not jog a few miles first and grab them on my way back to the house? And so on.
It’s a nice little combo when it works.
February 7th, 2020 marked my first winter hike up in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. It was an overnight with two friends up to the Carter Notch Hut taking the Nine Mile Brook trail in and out.
I was a little worried about what the conditions might have in store but it ended up being amazing. I might have enjoyed it more than hiking in the other 3 seasons? It felt more calm and peaceful. There was a certain beauty to everything being covered in snow and ice. It seemed more adventurous.
Anyways, I was a little worried about my gear and general preparation. Here’s a quick summary of what I learned.
Microspikes are awesome. The weather was hovering around 32 on the hike in and there hadn’t been any fresh snow. Snowshoes seemed excessive so we set off in our boots. It only took about 2 minutes to realize there was a lot of ice under the snow. We tossed on our microspikes and it was smooth sailing from there.
I had stacked my snowshoes together and attached them with straps to the center of my backpack. It was a little clumsy. Next time I’ll do one on each side of my pack. This seemed to be how every other hiker I saw did it. Lesson learned.
I didn’t own proper snow pants or winter hiking pants before the hike. After excessively researching which ones to buy online, I landed on the Cirque II Pants from Outdoor Research. They worked great. Warm but breathable. Easy to move in. My only complaint is that I’m a little between sizes. Small were too tight at the waist and medium were a little long in the legs. I went with medium but they feel a touch baggy or bunched up. All well.
One of the biggest selling points of the pants, for me, was that they have a boot lace hook and grommets for an instep lace. This meant I could wear them without gaiters. I tried to find examples of how people did this online without much success. So here is a photo of how I rigged up some elastic cord through the grommets. It worked great. I plan to leave them on there.
I brought a wool buff instead of a synthetic one. It was nice but it stretched out and lost its shape a bit. This annoyed me enough that I might stick with the synthetic next time.
I also brought a wool hat but I think I would have preferred the thinner fleece hat I own. I was plenty warm while moving and I think it would have dried out faster after absorbing some sweat.
I had heavy duty winter mittens and a thin, packable pair for around the hut. Next time, I’ll bring really thin glove liners that I could wear inside the heavier mittens if needed. It’d be nice to have a little more dexterity around the hut so I’d take them off less and let me do things like put on my snowshoes without having my bare skin exposed in the 0 degree temps we faced the next morning.
My sleeping bag is only rated to 25 degrees but I paired it with a sleeping bag liner, which helped more than I expected. I was also wearing tights and a fleece. All that combined with being inside a hut was plenty.
Some final quick hits on gear:
- I should keep a small thing of super glue in my little first aid kit. We didn’t need it but seems useful and minimal.
- A small tube of aquafor or vaseline would also be nice to have to smear on exposed skin (e.g. face) when it gets really cold.
- I should brought my ultralight stuff sack from Osprey. I could have stuffed clothes or food into it and then had it around the hut to use.
- Bring a few more hand warmers. They weigh nothing and take up no space. What’s the downside?
- I relied on my iPhone XS for photo and video. I wanted to bring my Fuji x100t but the batteries die so quickly in the cold and I have to worry about protecting it from the elements. Whereas the iPhone is waterproof, battery last a long time in airplane mode, shoots better video, and it was always easy to access from my front pocket.
I stuffed everything inside a contractor trash bag that I put inside my backpack. I’ve used this trick before to keep things dry when there might be precipitation and it hasn’t failed me yet.
Food & water
Nothing major here. I have a random neoprene bag that is for a camera lens but would have fit my water bottle perfectly. My water didn’t freeze but good to know for next time.
Related – bring less water. It was only a ~4 mile hike each way. The hut has potable water. I don’t know why I thought I needed to carry 2.5L. 1L or 1.5L would have been plenty and water is heavy. Or keep an empty platypus bag rolled in my bag if I’m stressed about it.
Otherwise, I basically brought a few clif bars and trail mix plus the stuff we had for dinner. It was fine.
Other lessons learned
Keep stuff I want to stay dry in my sleeping bag or in a bag of some sort. I had my rain shell and a pair of tights hung up on hooks on the wall of our bunk. Condensation formed there and I woke up to everything being damp. Not awful but easily avoided too.
It was hard not to sweat on the hike up in ~30 degree weather. I didn’t need the tights I had on under my cirque pants. There was some icy drizzle so I didn’t want to take my shell off. I did have all the vents open and removed my hat. But my baselayer shirt was soaked when we got to the hut. Maybe it was unavoidable but I’m going to think about this some more.
Shorten my trekking poles a bit on steeper inclines. We tried to break trail1 and summit Wildcat Mountain on Saturday morning. It wasn’t happening but my awkwardly long poles weren’t help trying to climb up the steeper pitches.
Lastly, I’m far from an ultralight or serious hiker… but I have been trying to thougthfully pare down how much stuff I bring and how much weight I carry. I’m going to get a luggage scale so I can start to weigh my pack before future hikes and see if I’m actually able to trim weight over time.
About 6” of snow fell overnight and made it slow going. ↩
So… this title is probably not what you’re thinking. It has nothing to do with mind altering substances.1
I’ve found that I’m often reluctant to visit museums. Not because I don’t like them. But because the traditional visiting format doesn’t work well for me.
If I’m on vacation, spending half a day inside a museum seems costly. I want to be out walking around and exploring. Or even when I feel like I do have the time… I get burned out spending 3 or 4 hours in a museum.2 It is so much to take in. I can’t absorb it all and I have a “completionist” streak. Bad combo.
All this to say I love living within a 10 minute walk of the Peabody Essex Museum. Even better, admission is free for Salem residents.
This solves all my issues. Now I can pop in, explore one exhibit for 30 minutes, and leave. It is glorious.
This is exactly what we did a few weekends ago when we took Buckley on his first museum visit.
The exhibit we checked out couldn’t have been better suited for young children. Granted, Buckley is too young to know what was happening but his presence helped me be more childlike in how I viewed everything.
The exhibit was littered with thought provoking statements and quotes about life. Like these.
And various patterns and materials inspired from nature.
There were also some interesting structures you could explore within. Some contained videos or lighting fixtures. Harder to photograph, however.
All in all, it was great. Excited for many more short trips to the museum as a family.
As an unexpected bonus on our way out, I got to contribute to an interactive exhibit. You sit silently and meditate as you try to form a piece of clay into a perfect sphere. Once you’re satisfied, you add it to the collection. A peaceful way to wrap up the visit.
When I was reading Austin Kleon’s “100 things that made my year (2019)”, I thought it’d be fun to try and do something similar. I haven’t kept a particularly crisp log of 2019 so we will see what I can cobble together from memory.
Note: I’m not going to try and get 100 exactly. And I’m calling it reflections so I can include anything I want but I suspect it will end up all being positive stuff. We’ll see!
Buckley and #DadLife
- The birth of my first child had to lead off the list. Just a universe altering experience. Too much to cover here so I’ll point to some previous thoughts.
- Playing a couple of songs that make me think about fatherhood on repeat. Welcome To Earth (Pollywog) by Sturgill Simpson, Bloom by bLAck pARty, and A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall by Bob Dylan.
- Being grateful that he has been healthy and we’ve been doing at least an okay job ~5 months in. I’m glad we’ve been able to maintain our sense of humor and try to take a more laid back approach to parenting. Lots to worry and obsess over but we seem less neurotic than some at least.
- Watching his grandparents fawn over him.
- Milestones! Smiling, laughing, grabbing stuff. rolling from front to back, sticking his tongue out. Basically almost everything he does is a first and it is a ton of fun.
- I should rewind a bit and acknolwdge for stressful the early days of the pregnancy were for us. We lost a pregnany in 2018 around week 19 so we were terrified it’d happen again. It took a long, long time for us to feel comfortable and feel like this one was going to work.
- Related – the 2018 loss was a termination for medical reasons. I became a lot more comfortable being outspoken about reproductive rights in 2019.
- Baby shower was really lovely. We got to invite a lot of people and made it co-ed as well. Just a great day and nice to feel so loved.
- Waiting for a baby is hard at the end. He was almost a week late. Had a scare-but-not-really with preeclampsia. But it all worked out.
- Getting reminded how much I love the photos that come out of my Fuji x100t. I’ve been using it more and more with Buckley and it is so good at skin tones and the images always look great.
- Taking Buckley to vote in the local elections. He’s a very civic minded baby. The councillor for our ward winning by only a single vote!
- Taking Buckley to a polo match in Hamilton. This was a fun outing with friends. Sort of a fancy tailgate situation with horses. We might try to make it an annual thing.
- Buckley’s first Haunted Happenings parade. He has a lot of costumes in his future.
- Going to an orchard with Buckley for apple cider donuts!
- Watching all his older relatives play with him during Thanksgiving. Excited for him to be more interactive at future holidays or gatherings.
- Buckley staying up late to come to Notch with me when I hit 100 Wednesday runs and got my name added to the plaque.
- Lots of quick restaurant outings with him. We’ve managed to get pretty good at grabbing a bite without things going sideways or him getting fussy.
- Watching the fire department rescue Santa off the roof of the Hawthorne Hotel and strolling Buckley to the tree lighting ceremony.
Running / health / exercise / etc.
- Ran my first marathon!
- Ran the Mount Washington Road Race for the first time!
- First (unsuccessful) attempt of doing the Pemi Loop in a single day. We underestimated how badly the ice monorail and postholing would slow us down. Glad we did the responsible thing and cut it short (though we still hiked ~26 miles).
- Kind of a weird year overall. Despite running my first marathon, I actually ran fewer total miles in 2019 (939) than I did in 2018 (1,126). I tried to ramp my mileage too quickly in January in new shoes and tweaked my left IT band a bit. Then the 3 accomplishments listed above happened in quick succession leading to some burnout. But I finished the year okay and I’m back into a better groove now. Hoping that I can regain some speed at shorter distances and run a sub-3 marathon in Chicago in the fall.
- I was off and on with tracking other stuff. Made some attempts to track how many pull ups and push ups that I did. Same with alcoholic drinks consumed. But I’d have stretches where I didn’t log anything. It is a hard balance. The accountability helps me but trying to quantify everything also kind of sucks.
- Briefly held the Strava segment crowns for the Notch 5k and 10k loops.
- Bought an old English 3 speed bike for $40 and fixed it up. Cleaned off all the rust, replaced the pedals, added cork grips and a milk crate, and took it to the local bike shop for a tune-up. Didn’t ride it quite as much as I hoped but looking to change that in 2020.
- Beer mile with a bunch of friends. OOF. No thanks. I puked twice and remembered that I don’t like chugging beers. Fun in theory though.
Travel and fun and all that
- Rented a tiny little cabin in Stowe, VT in January and got completely snowed in. But it was fun. Worked on a puzzle and snuggles with the dogs while watching PBS.
- Went to an Eric Church concert at TD Garden with my cousin and her husband. We didn’t really know any of his music but they had floor seats and it was a blast.
- Playing bocce on the beach on an unseasonably warm March day in New England with a close friend.
- Going to the Salem Cheese Shop a few times for their blind tasting challenge. I never did guess correctly on which region the wines were from but it was a fun way to end a week when I could make it.
- MAUI! Our babymoon. Such an amazing trip and island. First time to Hawaii. Loved exploring the island. Loved doing lots of stuff in a relaxing way. Road to Hana was a highlight, for sure. Too many favorites to list.
- Bought an awesome straw hat in Maui that I wore a lot for the rest of the year.
- Quick pitstop in Milwaukee on the way home for an event with Lea’s family. Stayed in a cool art deco type historic hotel. Visited a nice brewery with a funny tour guide.
- Attended a surprise wedding!! A lovely couple down the street from us invited us to their 20th anniversary celebration at Ledger (a nice restaurant in town). When we arrived, it sure seemed formal and wedding-like. Sure enough, Tess and Alyssa had never been formally married and they were about the change that. Mayor Driscoll officiated and it was all very amazing.
- Went back to Eagle Mountain House! This is where we got married in 2015. So when we traveled to NH for the Mount Washington Road Race we stayed here the night before. It was fun and a bit nostalgic to be back there.
- Fun weekend in Falmouth with a bunch of Lea’s college friends and a quick day trip to Martha’s Vineyard as well.
- Wedding weekend for a high school friend at Belhurst Castle on Seneca Lake. Fun to see old friends and get to spend time at home too. Stopped at Seneca Falls to check out the women’s suffrage museum. Made a day trip to Ithaca to walk around the commons.
- Fun dinner with two college buddies at Row 34. We ate well.
- Beer advent calendar with friends. 12 of us total. Everyone supplied two 12 packs. 24 different beers to try throughout December. Kind of a lot of drinking but it was really fun.
- Hosting Christmas! Switched this year to doing secret santa so people didn’t have to buy as many gifts to cut down on consumerism a bit. Worked really well. Plus, Christmas with an infant around is adorable.
Home improvement type ish
- Converted my old butcher block desk into a standing desk.
- Generally improved the basement aka my office a fair amount. Hung more stuff on the walls. Got a diffuser and more filing cabinets. Added a plant. And so on.
- Bought an old vintage Steelcase Tanker chair off craigslist. I kind of love it but I’m not sure it is good for my back.
- Tulips planted last summer bloomed and looked great. Most of the perennials in the yard looked healthy this year.
- Biggest thing was definitely setting up the nursery. A bit stressful at times but worked out really well in the end.
- Made the living room more organized so we have a spot for all of Buckley’s toys and gear.
- Got a Dyson stick vacuum that seemed kind of unnecessary but has turned out to be a life saver. We vacuum and clean up so much more often now. Highly recommended.
- Put up frosted privacy sticker type things on the bottom half of our first floor windows. Lets in light but gives us a little more privacy than before.
User Interviews grows up
- I now have 4 direct reports on my team (2 product designers, 2 product managers).
- The company overall went from a headcount in the low teens to 40 within the calendar year. It sounds crazier typing it out. It felt like a steady ramp for the most part.
- Offsite in Austin in April with ~15 of us. It kind of felt like a turning point – here is the last time a small core group will be together before we get big. Lots of tacos, bbq, and nights ended at The White Horse Tavern.
- Worked from home full time! We’ve always been a remote team but in 2017 some of us would meet up a few days a week in office space in Boston to work together. We lost that space in 2017 and didn’t look back. I love being fully remote now.
- Awkward Silences podcast became legit. We landed an impressive list of guests and hit 20k listens. I’ve learned a lot from the guests and a lot about how to host. It has been a fun ride.
- San Diego offsite in December. Much bigger crew – over 30 of us this time. Still an awesome vibe across the team and it felt like it helped all the newer folks gel with the rest of the team.
- Bauman’s Botanicals. Found these local shrubs at the farmers market. So, so good when added to seltzer. Drank a lot of these. Excited to get more next summer.
- Bought a Pocket Operator from Teenage Engineering. I don’t quite know what I’m doing but I was able to make some fun beats. It is a lot of fun to fiddle with regardless.
- Finding and loving the Emoji Mashup Bot on twitter.
- A nice restaurant – Chez Casa – opening down the street from us. Good sandwiches, good salads, good fresh pasta. Just a lot to like.
- Buying this Parks book on a whim. Really lovely collection of National Park graphic design over the years.
- Became oddly fascinated with bag reviews from Chase Reeves on YouTube. Not exactly sure why. I’m not buying a new backpack at the moment. But I love his rambles about life and general vibe, I guess.
- The Lost Boy album by YBN Cordae. This really stuck in my head and was on heavy rotation for me.
- Getting my personal site all set up and configured on Github pages. I imported all my old tumblr posts and generally got things in better shape. More improvements to come.
- Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. Loved this book despite not knowing much about surfing.
- Finished The Americans and was satisfied by the ending. Rare for a TV show these days it seems.
- The two Fyre Fest documentaries were amazing. I loved that stupid saga so much.1
- Did pretty well with reflecting and journaling. Some meditating as well. Lots of epsom salt baths too.
- Into The Spider-Verse was so good. Funny, clever, cool soundtrack, etc. I put off seeing it for a while then loved it.
- Rhythm + Flow on Netflix was oddly capitvating.
- Fleabag was as good as everyone said. Glad we got around to watching it.
- In general, I wasn’t great at tracking content that I loved. A lot of good podcast episodes and New Yorker articles in particular that I cannot easily dig up. Going to work on fixing that somehow in 2020.
Phew, that was a lot. Probably missed stuff but I think I hit a lot of it.
I can’t in good faith include the Theranos stuff in here too. It was also fascinating but it involved real health outcomes for real people and doesn’t seem amusing as a result. ↩
I’ve had a few issues with this blog that I had been meaning to clean up for quite a while… and well, I finally did it. Nothing crazy but here is a quick list of some of the changes.
- CSS has been simplified quite a bit. It is still probably too bloated and confusing for a site of this simplicity but I’m not a developer or designer. It will be fun to see if I can simplify further. But overall – much better than it was.
- New header font! I’m now using Noto Sans instead of Nunito. Nunito was a bit too rounded, smoothed off and it didn’t fit well with Zilla Slab (the serif font I’m using for body copy).
- I stuck with serif for body font and san serif for headers. This seems to be the inverse of a lot of modern blog styles but I prefer it so whatever.
- Slightly reduced max width for better readibility.
- Fixed a lot of spacing, marging, and padding issues. Headers in particular were a mess previously. But line heights, paragraph spacing, and lists are better now too.
- Lists in particularly were bugging me the most. Glad to have fixed those issues for good. I made the line height on list items a little tighter than on paragraphs so each item feels a little more contained. Subtle but it helps. I swear.
- Added the tiniest amount of border radius to images (2px!) that is barely noticeable but it makes me happy.
- Put in styles for
code blocksfinally (including syntax highlighting when a language is specified).
- Made the base font size 20px. I think Zilla Slab reads better at this size and it was simpler to have it as the default instead of doing everything off a base of 16px and using 1.25rem constantly.
- Added a date above each post, which also serves a permalink to the individual post. This is not super intuitive but I want the blog to primarily serve as a minimalist feed. Therefore I don’t like requiring every post to have a title so it is a workaround to view every individual post when there isn’t always a title to click. I know this is not the best usability wise but it works for me for now.
- Related – cleaned up the formatting of individual posts so they don’t look like trash now that there is a way to view them.
- Put footnotes into their own, more clearly contained little section. Much happier with this treatment1.
- Loaded the 500 weight italiced version of Zilla Slab for use within block quotes. I love, love having this weight and style available. Adds a nice subtle distinction from the normal 400 weight and it looks nicer than the fake browser version of italics that you usually get instead.
- Note: I’m not a typography snob but I wouldn’t mind becoming one. Enjoying these posts from Frank Chimero lately.
- Added some negative left margin to block quotes so the text continues to align with the normal paragraphs but the left border hangs out in its own gutter. I tried a lot of different styles for block quotes before landing on this one.
I think that is about it! Really happy with how it all played out in the end. I also added a style guide page so I had somewhere to easily see the impact of various changes. I should have done that sooner. Lesson learned.
Important as I love being able to use footnotes for some reason. ↩
“Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness.”
— Yousuf Karsh
“Stan culture” isn’t really a topic I’ve thought much about. I’ve heard the terms for groups of fans – Beyhive, Beliebers, Little Monsters, etc. But that had been the extent of my knowledge. I did not fully realize the impact these rabid fan groups have on social media.
As these random things always happen, I read an article about this same topic in The New Yorker right after listening to this podcast.
“You know how dope it would be if Nicki put out mature content? No silly shit. Just reflecting on past relationships, being a boss, hardships, etc. She’s touching 40 soon, a new direction is needed.” When Thompson got to the show, she put her phone away. By the time she checked it again, two hours later, her tweet had gone viral.
That is barely even a criticism? Like what are we even talking about?
I guess my main thought on this whole topic is – don’t let a single artist or piece of fiction define your whole identity. I loved Game of Thrones and found the last season disappointing. All well. I loved Kanye and have found some of his newer stuff weird. So what.
Would I have preferred Game of Thrones had an amazing ending? Yea, of course. Would I be happier if Kanye kept making undisputably classic albums? You bet.
But there are so many other shows and other music I want to explore anyways. I’ll just do that instead of freaking out on twitter. Everyone relax.
It is funny to me people will say things like “I stan so-and-so.” Have you heard the song? Stan isn’t exactly portrayed in a good light.
And of course this has been going on forever.
“Lisztomania,” coined in 1844, described the mass frenzy that occurred at Franz Liszt’s concerts, where audience members fought over the composer’s gloves or broken piano strings.
I feel so conflicted about this topic. Undergrad played a huge role in my life and I want others to have access to the same type of opportunity. Student loans can help do that.
But given the current rate of tuition increases – it is projected to be over $100k/yr by the time my son would be applying – it is hard to imagine the cost continuing to be worth it. Tuition is outpacing inflation and income in dramatic ways.
From the late nineteen-eighties to the present, college tuition has increased at a rate four times that of inflation, and eight times that of household income.
Ending up with a lot of student debt is such an albatross. It limits your options precisely at the stage of life when you should have the most optionality.
We’ve set up a 529 account for Buckley. And hopefully it will appreciate well and help pay for some meaningful portion of his education. We’d, you know, like to help him avoid being crushed by loans.1
But I think higher education will look a lot different in 18 years. Or at least I hope that it will? I’ve worked with enough self taught software engineers to see how the internet changes education opportunities. The current system is bloated and there are practical alternatives emerging. Something is going to give… eventually.
I was fortunate to get enough aid from Hamilton College and help from my parents where I graduated “with only” 65k in debt despite attending an expensive liberal arts school. I was even more fortunate to land into a first job that I enjoyed, it paid well, and offered room for advancement. This allowed me to put a dent into my student loans right away. Paying my loans off in 2017 was such a relief. ↩
So my wife and I voted in our local election today and one of the candidates we voted for won by a single vote. How crazy is that? It is actually blowing my mind.
I feel like a infomerical or something. Remember to vote kids!
Lastly, I love that Salem’s progressive movement goes by “Witch the vote.” Of course. 🧙♀
Nine-to-five is how you survive, I ain’t tryna survive
I’m tryna live it to the limit and love it a lot
This is one of those lyrics I’d see quoted in AIM away messages growing up and I never really thought much about… until recently.
Since I’ve been working remotely, I have occasionally taken advantage of having more flexibility in my day to day schedule. Maybe I’d go for an afternoon run on a nice day to break things up. Or wrap my day up a little early to meet a friend. But honestly, I did this type of stuff when I worked in an office too.
But in the 7 weeks since our son was born, I’ve realized how amazing it is to have a lot of autonomy over your work schedule. I don’t think I can overstate the benefit.
Now maybe I go help with Buckley during the afternoon and catch up on work later while he sleeps. Or I start my day later to help with his morning fussin’. It is more fluid and flexible.
So this lyric means more to me now. I don’t want to just “survive.” I want to be deeply involved in raising my son (aka “love it a lot”) and turn User Interviews into a juggernaut (aka “live it to the limit”). Remote makes it possible for me to do both. I’m not limited by an arbitrary and strict 9 to 5 schedule each day. It is more fulfilling and I’m getting more done.
I grew up in Central New York. In a small town that received a lot of snow every year.
So when I was 16 and got my learners permit in November… learning how to drive in the snow was emphasized. One of the most important things to learn is how to react if the car fishtails around a corner. This is when you go around a corner, your rear wheels slip, and drift out towards the center of the road.
The answer is counterintuitive. You need to turn the front wheels towards the middle of the road too. Basically, you need to steer into the problem. This is how you stop it and regain control.
I find that this metaphor holds up in other areas of life too.
When I’m running a race and it starts to hurt… I do best when I lean into the pain and try to attack it. Or if I don’t know something at work… it helps to lead with my lack of knowledge. It attracts more assistance and input than pretending to have it under control.
This all makes me think I should get around to reading The Obstacle Is The Way.
“The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway
I’ve thought about this a few times since coming across it. On the surface, trust seems binary – I trust someone or I don’t.
But that doesn’t hold up under much scrutiny. Trusting someone to hold your spot in line is quite a bit different than trusting someone to watch your child, for instance.
So I’m going to try and default more to trusting people – in some capacity – from the start.