Me Dot Jpeg

Hi. I'm Tim.

I'm a Senior Product Designer at Fulcrum, focusing on the quality and continued evolution of the UI/UX. I'm currently designing, making art, writing, solving problems, and adding clarity wherever possible.

June 11, 2021

New, Yet Familiar Horizons

Leaving Florida

When this year began, I set aside four simple anchors as a guide amongst the meanderings of the day-to-day. Three of those (reading, writing, and drawing more) are rooted in activities of daily practice, so their chance for success is already pretty high. The fourth, however, is something that requires far more attention, planning, stress, and cost: closing the book on my time in Florida and moving back to Pennsylvania.

We’re now in the home stretch of the process, though I suspect some pitfalls still await. Many of my colleagues have relocated in the last year and I can’t fathom how they maintained their reticence while in the middle of all this. One day they simply appeared in a different room on the Zoom calls and I came to find out in passing that “Oh, yeah, I moved to Texas” or some such coyness. Maybe it’s because I’ve only moved a handful of times in my life, or that this move is a particularly sweeping change in scenery, culture, and climate, but I can scarcely imagine omitting anything about this adventure, let alone keeping it a total secret like they seemed to do.

I came to Florida from Philadelphia in 2005 to kickstart my design career. A friend of mine settled in Orlando two years prior and he offered me a job as a designer if I was willing to move. Having spent my first post-college year selling running shoes while trying to find anything resembling a job in the arts, I didn’t hesitate. I intended to spend a few years getting my feet wet before moving back to the Northeast, this time to New York. Circumstances changed, as they tend to do, and sixteen years later I’m finally departing.

Why do this? Why disrupt an entire family’s routine? Why take a bold stand against the forces of inertia? Well…

Nature

Florida be hot. Can’t stay outside from May to Oct. Sad face.

Florida be flat. Can’t go up no mountains. Sad face.

Florida be samey. Drive hours in any direction. Still Florida. Sad face.

Seasons

The sense of renewal and excitement associated with seasons changing is one of the things I missed the most about leaving the northeast.

Culture

The ability to access a larger variety of activities, people, sporting events, ways of living. A four-hour drive from the new house can land us in no fewer than 8 states. Four hours from the old house got us into Georgia. Peaches are ok, but I’d like to see other fruits.

Sports

Sports are good. Hard to play sports in 99º heat at 99% humidity. Especially if that sport is pond hockey.

Change

…is good. That’s why people love to travel. I do not love to travel, but I always feel great after I do. Exposing the kids to a big life change like this will also assuage some of the fear of the unknown, which they will be able to apply in other contexts.

Friends & Family

I have loved ones I haven’t seen much in the last decade and a half. Reconnecting is nice.

We’re up against all the things one would associate with uprooting. New schools, new doctors, new roads. I gotta buy a snow shovel. I’m back to paying state tax. I have to get my car inspected. Driving 16 hours with the cat in the back seat is going to be…interesting.

Worth mentioning as well is that I didn’t anticipate how difficult it is to continue my daily routine when my mind is 95% consumed by thoughts about the move. I’ve been able to continue waking up early, walking, and reading, but my art and writing have completely stopped. I very quickly came to terms with this since it was an obvious probability, but I read something Jessica Hische wrote recently that helped buttress my feelings about it:

The key as a parent is just making sure your creative pilot light never goes out. The system is running on “energy save” for a while. There will be a time when you can crank it again and it’s easier to turn it up if it’s not entirely extinguished.

In this example, she’s referring to the frequent madness of parenting, but I think the same concept applies to anything urgent yet temporary.

But despite everything, and all the hassle of decluttering, packing, moving, unpacking, decluttering more, and getting settled in an unfamiliar place, I’m so glad we decided to do this and I can barely contain my excitement.

April 13, 2021

A Meeting About a Project

Meeting image

Inspired by Ryan Singer’s post, Some solution vs. no solution

Guys, before we move on I’d like to address an elephant in the room. It only just occurred to me to bring this up, so if my thoughts are a bit scattered on this, please forgive me. I know everyone in here has a wealth of experience, but I noticed something in the few previous meetings where this project was discussed that indicates there’s room to shed some light on how we should design our software.

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March 29, 2021

Laundry Gratitude

I'll Be One image

The clothes are already on the hangers. They’re laid out thoughtfully and neatly on the bed. I look down at the stack of shirts. I look over at the closet - their final destination. I cast my gaze more broadly over the space, estimating the distance, in feet, between where they are and where they could be. Three feet.

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March 8, 2021

Prove Them Right or Prove Them Wrong

I'll Be One image

Think of all the nice things people have said about you that you consider as you frame your sense of self. Now replace all those good things with bad things. How would that change your perspective about yourself and your ability to live up to those things?

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February 5, 2021

Everything is My Fault

Hell Yeah or No

On the heels of reading my first two “normal” books of the year, I spent the last week chewing through a small yet juicy group of books about artistic / personal progress. I’m two-thirds of the way through the fifth in this group and I just read a page that shined a spotlight on something I’ve been making an effort to do over the last number of years. The book is “Hell Yeah or No” by Derek Sivers. The essay is short enough to paste in its entirety, so read it below. This is such a powerful concept because it goes against every human instinct, but is one of the most liberating and constructive things you could ever do for yourself.

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January 28, 2021

Don't Eat Those Berries

A Berry

I’ve recently gone HAM on signing up for newsletters and I came across this gem from Jack Butcher’s Visualize Value:

We’re wired to forage for information in the same way we used to forage for food, but we don’t seem nearly as concerned by the possibility of ingesting something poisonous.

This is something worth remembering and telling your friends, spouses, and children about. There are tons of poisonous berries in our feeds. Take a moment right now to toss a few of them into the scrub at the side of the trail.

January 24, 2021

Resetting a Bias

For my second book of the year, I picked up Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Information about how the human brain operates is deeply interesting to me, so a book about the irrationality of humankind is an easy choice. I enjoy how works like this cause me to examine my own habits and modes of thinking to show areas I can improve. Today’s exercise came to me this morning when I was looking through Spotify for the day’s playlist.

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January 14, 2021

My 2021 System

I’ve never been a practitioner of yearly goal setting since it goes against my tendency to go with the flow, but this year I’m taking a new approach. I do have some general goals in mind, but instead of putting any energy toward them specifically, I’m implementing a system of habits whose byproduct will hopefully lead to them. My system is diabolically simple. Every morning before work, I will exercise, stretch, make art, read, and write. That’s it. That’s the list.

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January 7, 2021

Reading Pace: 91.25 Books Per Year

First book, in the books

First book, in the books.

Based on the current numbers, that title is true. I’m picking up where I left off last year and leaning hard into reading more books this year. I don’t usually finish a book in under a week, but I sped through last year’s release by Scott Adams, Loserthink. The title seems condescending until you understand that it uses “loser” as the noun and not the adjective, as in the one who lost. To put it another way, the opposite of loserthink is the kind of productive thinking that will potentially lead to more successes than failures.

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January 4, 2021

A New Chapter in Doing Nothing

Rest

It’s somehow appropriate that the post immediately following one about making progress falls an entire month to the day of not making any. Half of that time, however, was by design. As the year came to an end I took off two full weeks, covering the Christmas and New Year holidays. During this time I afforded myself the opportunity to do as little as possible and I took full advantage. I got a cold halfway through my fortnight of loafing which drove the lack of action into another gear. There’s something valuable about the zone of intensity in my early-morning routine, and my lack of productivity shared some of those qualities. Let’s call it aggressive leisure. With that in mind, I’ve devised a year-long plan for 2021 that I hope will facilitate a nice balance between progress and rest. It’s a concept I eluded to in my previous post about the cyclical nature of these things, and how the structure of my day could likely be scoped out to larger stretches of time.

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December 4, 2020

A New Chapter in Making Progress

Tales & observations from a recovering time waster

Progress.

When I used to read social media posts from the Rise-and-grind™ glitterati, the half of my brain that didn’t scoff and chortle was deeply curious and a little envious. How did they have the discipline to not only rise so early but have any remaining mental capacity to subsequently grind? Beyond the pretenders, hustle-signalers, and full-on poseurs, I knew there had to be some merit to the idea, but I never had a strong enough compulsion to give it a try until recently. This essay explains the winding back and forth from nightly screen dependency to early-rising productivity. I’ll go over the tradeoffs between these two states, how they affect my sleep, feelings of self-worth, productivity, fitness, and how it enhances my outlook on life.

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November 27, 2020

November Books Update

About little over six weeks ago I decided to tackle my lack of reading progress with math, deducing that if I simply read a certain minimum number of pages per day, I’ll finish every book on my list by year’s end. Welp…It’s working.

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November 12, 2020

DIYF (Do It Yourself...First)

There comes a time in every person’s life when they feel compelled to boss someone around. If you don’t think it will happen to you, you must not be in a relationship or have children or even friends, because if there’s one thing I know about humans, we’re selfish bastards. It’s easy to be humble, empathetic, and generous when the only mouth you have to feed is making faces at you in the bathroom mirror. When it comes to force-feeding my infinite wisdom on my loved ones, however, I’ve discovered a useful trick.

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November 3, 2020

Failure Hill

Almost every drawing I do starts as a punishing failure. There’s a point at which the winds change, however, and it moves into the success category. It’s a palpable feeling, but I can’t predict when (or if) it will happen when I’m drawing. It’s a bit like Russian roulette in that I have no idea if it will ever go from failure to success, leaving open the possibility that the entire exercise will yield nothing. I should be ok with that, chalking it up to being “part of the bigger process”, but I’m not. Failed drawings are disproportionate hits to my confidence and while rare, I’ve had some that never came around no matter how much erasing, noodling, coercing, or fiddling I did.

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October 29, 2020

I Got Five Minutes

I have six minutes to write something. Make that five. Today has been tough. Not tough in the sense that anything bad has happened, but in the context of my new routine of getting up early, exercising, drawing, reading, and writing, it’s been a grind. This is day four, and after a fantastic day three, it’s a feeling of coming back down to earth. Unsurprisingly, it has everything to do with my sleepiness. I don’t feel mentally fatigued, as if the activities are too intense, I simply feel like I didn’t get enough sleep last night. Which is odd, considering I slept the longest I have all week. I don’t know if I believe in fatigue “catching up” with someone, but perhaps the first two days my body and mind were in denial. I feel less confident about the drawing today than I did yesterday. Yesterday’s was one for the ages and although today’s wasn’t bad, it wasn’t as good. Ten seconds left. There’s something more to that, I think. A great drawing really puts wind in my sails and whatever happened before or after is less important. Gonna think about that some more. Time’s up. 🙃

October 28, 2020

Empowering Your Judge

Only you know how truly lazy you are.

I think it was one of my art school professors who casually floated that idea into the classroom one day and I’ve regularly thought about it ever since. The point was to assuage any trepidation or feelings of imposter syndrome that might hamper our creativity, productivity, and any other pertinent “ivities”. I’m fairly certain is was also to combat the introverted art students’ penchant for pointing out everything wrong with their work every time they opened their mouths (🤚🏻 guilty). The byline went something like, “People probably think your work is pretty decent, no need to persuade them that you actually suck.” Bob Ross used to say don’t “spoil the magic” for those who enjoy your work. I think that statement is quite useful to hear, especially for creative people who have a critical eye.

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October 26, 2020

Why I Work Outside

Embellished for dramatic effect. I love my family. (Ok, are they gone? Phew.)

Me. Outside.

Me. Outside.

I like the outdoors as much as the next guy, so my penchant for working outside isn’t surprising. However, the chirping birds, mischievous squirrels, soothing breezes, and fresh air are just a zen-like consequence of my real reason for parking in this ass-breaking porch chair every day: solitude. I’ve been working remotely for ten years now, but only recently discovered the joys of working in a house with other people in it. And by joys I mean please leave me alone, I’m working.

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October 16, 2020

👟 Hitting Your Stride Late

My mother tells me I’ve always been a late bloomer. I think that’s a generous way of saying it takes me longer to do what most people figure out in short order. I’m not talking about an individual task or skill, more of an acceptance of the way things are and the adaptations and adjustments that go with it. When I was in college, the last thing I wanted to do was think about what I was going to do when I got out. Sounds ridiculous when I write it out, but I’ve always just picked up necessary responsibilities along the way and that hasn’t steered me wrong. Some part of me always trusted I would settle into the rhythm required to succeed without having to rush.

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October 10, 2020

🎵 Weekly Tunes Roundup

This week I started a new stream-of-consciousness writing routine using Roam’s {{POMO}} feature, a 25 minute Pomodoro timer built right in. This is the perfect opportunity to make use of my Epic Soundscapes playlist which contains some zen-like ocean, creek, and rain sounds. Perfect for letting your mind wander. Sitting outside helps, too. 😉

October 9, 2020

I Ruined My Child's Fun. Again.

Yesterday I did something I want to take back. I ruined the fun of my 8 year old when we were playing in the driveway. I wish I could say this is the first and last time that will happen, but I’ve done this before. I always do this. I played sports as a kid and I loved nothing more than practicing by myself in the driveway, making up drills and challenges that were fun but stretched me beyond my immediate skill level. My youngest son isn’t like me. He likes playing sports, but doesn’t really want to get better. He says he does, but he doesn’t have that knack for practice that will lead to actual improvement. He has natural ability so he’s more than capable, but he tends to stop quickly when things get a little tough.

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October 6, 2020

Books Update

The main challenge for this goal isn’t going to be completing these books. It’s going to be refraining from starting 10 more while I do.

Remember when I wrote that a month ago? I remember. As of today, I’ve gotten no closer to completing any of the books on my list, and I bought two books this week:

Badass: Make Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra

Demand-Side Sales 101 by Bob Moesta

This may be a situation where if I’m going to reach my goal of finishing these books this year, I’m gonna have to do it with math. Number of days pages left divided by number of days in the year, and Bob’s yer Uncle. There are three audio books in my list, so I’m not sure how quickly those will go. I tend to have a harder time sitting still for those than I do when I read traditional copies.

So, having crunched the numbers, here’s what we’re looking at:

Total pages: 1,227

Days left: 86

Pages per day needed: 14.27

I’m actually really surprised at how attainable that seems compared to how monumental the task looks when I peek over at my stack of unreads. I might be able to do this, yet.

October 5, 2020

My Kingdom for a Back Button

Why simple feature requests aren't so simple.

We all think we know what we want. On occasion, we’re actually right about what that even is. But usually when we ask for something we fail to articulate what we really want. My daughter does this when she argues with me.

“Can I go to the mall?”

“No.”

“Come ON, I really want to go to the mall!”

False. What she really wants is to hang out with her friend and the mall is simply one version of doing that.

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September 30, 2020

Why Is It So Easy to Miss The Point?

I had this text exchange with my Mother-in-law today and I want you to pay attention to the initial knee-jerk reply that I didn’t end up sending:

Naina (pronounced Nay-nah): [Brother-in-law] says these are yours. I’ll bring them over next time I visit. I’m assuming you have the PS2 back and I’m not hanging on to it.

My unsent reply: Not all mine, but ok lol. The GTAs and Madden 2004 could be mine, but I’ve never owned a wrestling game or an NCAA Football game. I’ll take em though, thanks!

🖐 Raise your hand if you can spot the issue here.

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September 25, 2020

Fix-it Friday

In a recent CSS Tricks newsletter, Robin Rendle explains how he practices incremental improvements by scrutinizing Sentry’s CSS every Friday afternoon.

…after rummaging about looking at a component I realized that there were all sorts of places where our styles were coming from: there was no single source of truth. So! Instead of panicking, the first thing I did was make a list of every problem I could see with our styles. Then, the more spelunking into our codebase that I did, I started to refine that list into tasks.

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September 21, 2020

10 Years.

Stability is very important to me. I’ve tried to live my life in such a way that minimizes the opportunity for unrest to infiltrate my surroundings and leave me with more unknowns than I can handle. When I was recruited by my company 10 years ago, I was at an epicenter of career uncertainty. Following the departure from my first design job out of college, I spent a year freelancing with mixed results. Needing to find something more predictable, I applied everywhere I could and took the first offer. I won’t go so far as to call that a mistake, having learned a ton and met some decent people, but the culture was all wrong for me. After a somewhat miserable year, I was more than ready to move on. I updated my website with some of my newly learned skills and started blogging a bit.

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September 18, 2020

🎵 Weekly Tunes Roundup

When I was younger I listened to a ton of instrumental guitar and this week I revisited one of the best: Joe Satriani. The word prolific doesn’t do him justice as he’s still going strong 34 years after his debut album. Today I made a playlist of some of my old favorites.

September 16, 2020

It's Not The Tool. It's You.

It was during an “earnest discussion of ideas” with my wife today that a certain aspect of human nature came sharply into focus. If anyone ever tells you they would love to do [insert activity] if they only had [tool only tangentially related to that activity that happens to cost money], you can take solace in the fact that nothing resembling that activity will be getting done with or without that tool. It’s not her fault. I’m absolutely guilty of the same behavior, as we all are to varying degrees. This is a stall tactic that we employ and every time it crosses my path I’m reminded of my favorite essay on the matter: Efficiency Is An Excuse To Not Do The Actual Work by Trevor McKendrick.

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September 14, 2020

Paying Attention

I shattered the sidelight next to my front door yesterday with the weed whacker. Well, not with the weed whacker as such, but with the river rock launching out sideways from under its throttling spool. I was, of course, obvlivious to this fact due to the noise and chaos usually commonplace to this activity. However, my wife screaming my name at the top of her lungs broke through the noise (and my ear protection) just enough to wake me from my yardwork trance.

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September 12, 2020

Revisiting Seth Godin's Lizard Brain ➚

When I first read about the Lizard Brain by Seth Godin, it put a tangible symbol to the pain of self-sabotages gone by. For some reason, that helped me cope with that part of myself and try harder to keep it at bay. The constant of human contradiction is still bumbling forward as clumsily as ever, but hopefully revisiting Seth’s article will revitalize the resistance.

September 11, 2020

I Was a Dumbass At Least Once This Week

Toward the end of the workday yesterday, I began having trouble running our app locally. Like everything in life, the problem wasn’t what it seemed at first. I’ve been working on updating the color palette in the app since some of the theming didn’t precisely match some recent marketing changes we made. Dozens and dozens of haml and css files later, my find/replace cleanup was done and my new Sass variables were all nice and shiny. 🧐 Yup, everything still works.

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September 10, 2020

11:59pm, September 10th

For the past several years I’ve had a task to complete as the clock approached midnight on September 10th. TQ, our former CEO, would have me create a one-off homepage for Fulcrum & Spatial Networks to pay homage to the victims of 9/11. He left the imagery completely up to me and though I showed him before we went live, he never once asked for changes. I always appreciated that he trusted me with this simple yet meaningful request, and I feel sad tonight as his recent departure from the company signifies the end of this tradition. However, as a way to keep it going for one more year, I’d like to share some of the images we used in recent years:

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September 8, 2020

Old Work

There’s something unique about enjoying an activity where you leave artifacts behind. Whether doing it professionally or just as a hobby, there’s nothing quite like making something yourself and adding it to the world. In searching through some of my past work to accompany the case studies for this site, however, I’m reminded of one of my least favorite aspects of design: looking at my crusty old work. I think digital designers have a particular disadvantage compared to fine artists in that they are primarily making something to solve a problem for that exact time. While the painter gets to look back at their “blue” period and recall all the tumultuous or wonderful things they were experiencing at the time, the digital problem solver has to look at something that’s been solved 10 different ways since then and all of them are no doubt more clever, more usable, and probably better for the environment.

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September 7, 2020

The Every Day Calendar

I made a frivolous purchase today. When you reach a certain age, you don’t really get presents for your birthday any more. I’m not a big shopper and I don’t want much, so typically when I want something, I pick it up. However, there are certain things I would love to have that my cheapness will simply not allow. Normally that’s that and I leave myself wanting, but with my new goal of writing every day in full swing, I thought I would consummate the journey by buying myself a birthday present.

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September 6, 2020

🎵 Weekly Tunes Roundup

Here’s some of the music I had on repeat this week. I tend to pick a playlist and milk it for all it’s worth. This week was 90% Ori.

September 5, 2020

Books Started

I suffer from something I bet a lot of people struggle with. I start a lot of books. Sometimes I read the first few chapters right away to try and give myself a fighting chance. Occasionally I even make it halfway through or more before something else draws my attention away. I do finish some, but I get so excited when I come across a new book I want to read, I usually start it before I finish the last one. I even tried to jump start my reading by adding a Basecamp check-in entitled, “How many pages did you read today?”. That actually worked for the book I was reading at the time, Every Tool’s a Hammer by Adam Savage, but I didn’t make room in my routine for the next book, and poof: inertia gone. With 4 months left in the year, my goal is to finish every ‘started’ book. I list them thusly:

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September 4, 2020

Williams F1: The End of an Era

Williams Martini Logo

Logo from 2014-2019. My favorite Williams livery.

When I got interested in Formula 1 back in the late 90’s, the Williams F1 team was on the heels of what would turn out to be their final championships as a family owned team. This weekend’s Monza race marks the final time a Williams will be at the helm, as Claire steps down as Deputy Team Principal following the sale of the team to an investment group from the States.

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September 3, 2020

Meeting Fatigue

Recently, much of my time is spent thinking about, checking the calendar for, preparing for, or trying to avoid meetings. I’m a designer, so I expect my attendence to occasionally be required when questions of product flow, UI, UX, branding, or other designery things come up. Lately, however, it seems like more of my time is being spent somewhat needlessly. I’m actually one of the lucky people, as some have had their entire existence engulphed by Zoom calls.

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September 2, 2020

The Did-I-Google-it Rule

Fairly early on in my tenure at Fulcrum, it became obvious that I was working alongside higher levels of talent and intelligence than I was used to. Everyone was very kind and answered my questions politely and I didn’t hesitate to let my curiosity show. As I settled into my place in the company, however, I had a growing feeling of guilt about interrupting coworkers to ask for answers that could most likely be found with some thrifty Googling. Granted, some of the information was inside baseball and only they had the answers, but the rest of it? Not so much. One day, though, my attitude changed.

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September 1, 2020

Mental Inertia

Jerry Seinfeld writes material every day for his act. In interviews, he often references his endless collection of yellow legal pads, saturated with ideas he curates and refines until they resemble the comedic equivalent of a bonsai masterpiece.

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August 31, 2020

Building in Public

Here’s the Twitter thread of this endeavor.

I set out to make something of this website in short order and here, on day 2, I publish my first set of changes. I won’t list them all here as you can check the thread above for those details, but one of the changes is this post.

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May 24, 2019

Working from home today. Forever.

This article was originally posted on Medium

Sitting here on my couch with a cat crowding my hip (and getting her stray fur on my keyboard), I strain to remember a time when this was not how I spent all my working days. In September, it will be 9 years since I was cold-called into what has become the longest tenured, most rewarding, and most fulfilling career experience of my life. On a warm, late-summer day in 2010, I was clicking away at my computer in a generic office building, daydreaming about being anywhere else. Back before robo-calls made it unwise to answer a call from an unfamiliar number, a ring from my lightly used iPhone 3G prompted me to excuse myself from my desk and sidle over to the break room to see who was on the other end.

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