Here’s to the high price of gas…

…and not just because my recent investment in oil futures depends on the price continuing to rise. The sudden upsurge in the price of gas has been the top news story for the past few weeks, and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight. Oil is a finite resource, and as China, India and other developing nations have… well… developed, the worldwide demand for oil has shot up. As Americans turn to the […] Read More

In An Athlete’s Shoes

The big athletic footwear companies have built their marketing campaigns around aspirational themes and creating connections between regular sports hobbyists and elite athletes. If you work hard, if you show character and passion – the message goes – then you are like them. I saw this clip from Nike today, and I think it does an especially good (and literal) job of putting the viewer in an athlete’s shoes…

Give it up

Back in my agency life, clients were always asking us to create “viral” campaigns that would get the attention of the digital youth. Our inside joke was that there was a simple three part formula… Create a MySpace profile Enlist the Black Eyed Peas (they were especially hot at that time) Put some videos on YouTube Then… POOF! it spreads like wildfire. Now, reading the pitches from the current lot of would-be gurus, it seems […] Read More

5 Things I Love About The Library

My small town library was one of my absolute favorite places when I was a kid. I regularly borrowed to the full limit of what I was allowed to take home. I still love the library, and the big one here in San Francisco is way cooler than anything I experienced as a kid. So, on that note, here are 5 things I love about the library… Free WiFi Considering the small town library of […] Read More

Stupid product of the week: American (big brand) beer

Have you ever noticed the way American beer commercials emphasize packaging gimmicks? The wide-mouth can. The label that turns blue when it’s cold. The easy-pour vent. The shelf pack that fits better in your fridge. Are there people who peruse the beer aisle thinking, “hmm… you know I really enjoy [favorite microbrew/import], but it pours all splashy, and I can’t tell if it’s cold without picking it up. I guess I’ll take the Coors.” In […] Read More

Hillama for President

“Hillary can’t win, and Obama can’t beat her.” This seems to be the bottom line in the endless slog toward choosing the Democrat who will run against McCain this fall. Obama’s platform is “change,” so it’s ironic that nothing changed in the six weeks between Super Tuesday and the Pennsylvania primary. The American people are certainly craving change, starving for it, so why can’t Obama close the deal? Is he offering the wrong kind of […] Read More

Britney Bashing Bottoms Out

I can’t believe I’m writing about Britney Spears, but bear with me. One would hope that Britney bottomed out somewhere around the head-shaving or the crotch-flashing. Now it seems the gossip mill’s coverage of Britney has finally bottomed out as well. Yesterday I was in the checkout line at the Safeway – where I get most of my celebrity gossip – and I noticed the usual array of Britney shots on the covers of the […] Read More

An Inconvenient Fee

I was reminiscing with my colleagues yesterday about the dawn of the ATM machine. We were remembering how, when banks first started to install them, they all used to charge you a small fee for the convenience of using it – whether you belonged to the bank or not. Thankfully, banks abandoned this practice, although many will still charge you for using an “out-of-network” ATM. When I was in Singapore doing some consulting for Singapore […] Read More

Getting There Without Directions

I can barely remember now, but before the age of MapQuest (and, subsequently, Google Maps), if I needed to go somewhere I’d never been to before, I rarely planned my route. If, for example, I wanted to go to a furniture store in a suburb on the other side of town, my process went something like this… Get in the car and start driving in the general direction of my destination. Once in the general […] Read More

Letter to the Editor, 1975

(to the editors at the New York Times) Dear Sir: An editorial in the Times, April 5, observes that “a decade of fierce polemics has failed to resolve this ongoing quarrel” between two contending views: that “the war to preserve a non-Communist, independent South Vietnam could have been waged differently,” and that “a viable, non-Communist South Vietnam was always a myth.” There has also been a third position: That apart from its prospects for success, […] Read More

Hillary, I hardly knew ye

I want to like, Hillary Clinton. I really do. She’s an accomplished and well-regarded senator, and she’s the only First Lady in my lifetime who tried to make a meaningful contribution during her tenure in the white house. I want to like her, but she’s making it really hard. In her presidential campaign, she could choose to focus on her strengths and her many accomplishments. Instead, she keeps inventing stories, revising history, taking cheap shots […] Read More

Measuring the Value of Good Will

In this week’s installment of his ‘Circuits’ column, David Pogue asks, “Are you taking advantage of Web 2.0?” By ‘you’ he means your company, and he describes the response this question got from the attendees at a recent PR conference: “…within seconds, there were 132 responses on the screen in a huge, scrolling list. ‘Not enough money.’ ‘Don’t understand it.’ ‘No technical resources.’ ‘Not enough manpower.’ ‘No visible return on investment.’ ‘Fear of ridicule.’ ‘Fear […] Read More

Black, White, Gray and J

I’ve just been reading some Jeff Jarvis’ recent posts about Senator Obama (like this one), and it’s a clear reminder that even a lot of smart people will ultimately cast their vote based on a general gut assessment of the candidates. I don’t know where Jarvis sits on the political spectrum, but he dissects and parses Obama’s speech along all the same lines as the stream of other conservatives who criticized it. Jarvis makes it […] Read More

Stupid product of the week: Lexus 600h

‘h’ is for hypocrisy. If the premier selling point of a hybrid vehicle is fuel economy, then you have to wonder why Lexus won’t reveal how economic the 600h actually is. This information is nowhere on the Lexus website or in most of the 3rd party reviews. It took me some digging, but I did finally find a review that addresses the fuel economy of the 600h and as you might guess from all the […] Read More

The Job – Career Gap

A couple of times in my career as a User Experience professional, I’ve worked for bosses whom I considered to be ridiculously (some even dangerously) incompetent. One recent boss would stroll in at 10 am and leave at 3 every day. Even during his limited hours, we rarely saw him, and I can’t remember him pushing a single initiative or idea in the years I worked at that company. At a busy agency chock full […] Read More

Dear CNN: The Medium is No Longer the Message

I didn’t see Obama’s landmark speech today, but I read the transcript. I admit I was moved by it, and although there was certainly a practical or tactical element to it – in the context of his presidential chances – I think it’s important to look past that and consider his actual words. I wish CNN agreed. Unfortunately, the whole focus of their coverage was to discuss whether the speech would work, and by “work” […] Read More

Watching Out For “What If…” In Product Development

The guys at 37 Signals have a list of what they call “red flag” words that often come up in business communications and can get teams into trouble. Words like “only” and “can’t” (as in, it should only take you a day to add this feature, and we can’t ship the product without it) lead down rat holes of feature creep and finger pointing. For me, one of those red flags is “what if…” What […] Read More

Design Meets Democracy

The state of Texas recently held an “e-vote” to choose a new license plate design. There were five designs in the running, and over 450,000 people cast their vote for the worst one. Just my opinion, but Design Observer agrees with me. This always seems to happen when design meets democracy. Letting the masses into the design process always leads to cluttered, overdone hodgepodge or bland, predictable treacle. But there’s an obvious paradox here. Namely, […] Read More

Does “Process” Work in Software Development? – Part 2

In my post yesterday, I questioned the value of “process” in web and software development and discussed my successes and failures both with and without it. The biggest problem with process is that it deludes people into thinking they have the fundamentals in place to guarantee a successful project. Process is too often a crutch in this way. Over the course of decade and a long list of projects, I’ve worked with variations of waterfall, […] Read More

Does “Process” Work in Software Development?

UPDATE: There’s a Part 2 now. When I started in the web development business about a decade ago, I worked at a small agency with a few smart people, and we were basically winging it. As the dotcom bubble expanded at a frenzied pace, we grew along with it, and inevitably we had a couple of projects take sharp turns south. People suffered on both sides, and it became clear that winging it was not […] Read More

My Favorite Web Services

As a user experience guy, one of the things I do for my job is try out every new web service that comes along. Most of them don’t really stick, and some I avoid simply because of god-awful naming. I’m talking about you, Frrvrr. Seriously, the Web 2.0 Company Name Generator could have done way better. Anyway, the following is the shortlist of the services I actually get value out of on an almost daily […] Read More

Starbucks 2.0

Starbucks To Begin Sinister ‘Phase Two’ Of Operation read the headline from The Onion. That was 2001, and Starbucks was heading for world domination. Seven years later, domination is accomplished, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The stock price has slumped badly, reflecting drops in both sales and general affection for the chain and all it represents. So, yesterday evening, in a highly-publicized move, Starbucks closed all of its nearly 7,100 locations. […] Read More

My Favorite Marketing Blogs

I read a lot of blogs, which I organize into a number of categories. One of those categories is marketing, which is a fruitful domain for bloggers. I thought I’d share the list of marketing blogs I find myself reading every day… Blog Maverick – The usually long-winded, sometimes incoherent, but always colorful musings and rants of Mark Cuban. Not strictly a marketing blog, as the champion of HD TV and owner of the Dallas […] Read More

Amazon Wants to be My Wingman

Today I ordered a book called Information Dashboard Design from – my latest in a series of work-related purchases. Of course, whenever you buy anything from Amazon, they generously suggest other books you might be interested in… Amazon seems to recognize that guys who habitually purchase books on information design and software engineering need all the help we can get. It’s nice to know they have my back.

John Cleese’s Letter to America (Notice of Revocation of Independence)

“Dear Citizens of America, In view of your failure to elect a competent President and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. Her Sovereign Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy), as from Monday next…” The headline caught my eye today on the Digg front page. I clicked, and the first […] Read More

My Favorite Podcasts

My iPhone and a good soundtrack is essential to my daily commute. Here’s a list of what I’ve been listening to lately: Radio Lab – Each episode of Radio Lab takes on a basic part of human existence like “sleep” or “time” and examines it from all angles. With wide open eyes, the hosts question our basic assumptions and preconceptions. The result is a collage of viewpoints from scientists, artists and regular people on the […] Read More

Dubai to blow another wad

The fantasy known as Dubai, home of the world’s only 7-star hotel, is planning to burn another billion or so on what will be the world’s largest and tallest spanning arch bridge, The 6th Crossing: (rendering by FXFOWLE) Obscene displays of money are nothing new to Dubai, and why not? They might as well spend everything they can as fast as they can, because in 100 years I’m guessing Dubai will look something like… (photo […] Read More

The Currency of Influence

The February issue of FastCompany magazine includes an article provocatively-titled, Is the Tipping Point Toast? about the work Duncan Watts has done researching influence. The article doesn’t exactly torpedo Gladwell‘s hypotheses, as the title suggests, but it does argue that influence is a much more random phenomenon than Gladwell and a string of high-profile marketing gurus – not to mention our own intuition – would have us believe: [Watts] has written computer models of rumor […] Read More

sigur rós trove of beauty

The other day, I was watching – for maybe the fiftieth time – this video by sigur rós for the song “Glósóli” It’s a stunning piece of filmmaking, for a gorgeous song, but if not for YouTube, how would one find such a thing as this? MTV doesn’t show videos anymore, and a band like sigur rós probably wouldn’t get much play even if they did, so why does sigur rós bother? Who is it […] Read More

Stupid product of the week: OJ Insanity

From the image above, you know I’m not talking about the notorious former football great. In case you’re counting, yes, that’s twelve varieties of Tropicana orange juice. Twelve! And that’s not including the orange juice blends (orange-tangerine, orange-pineapple and orange-strawberry-banana). There are varieties to suit various pulp-tolerances of course, but also tastes (low acid) and nutritional needs (calcium, fiber). There’s an orange juice for kids for some reason, one just for your heart and one […] Read More

Guilty Pleasure

When I was a kid, my parents controlled my TV diet, and while I was hardly deprived, I was never at risk of becoming a glutton. After school each day, I was allowed to 30 minutes of TV time – enough for one show. Our TV set was a 17″ black and white with the obligatory rabbit ears. It was old and sad, even for its day. It sat in the corner of my parents’ […] Read More

CD cover meme

Came across this fun design exercise via the xblog today. My entry is above. Instructions below: The first article title on the page is the name of your band. The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album. The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover. Tag it on flickr “CD Cover Meme” Voila! Instant music career.

The war of dependence

President Bush is touring the Middle East right now, and he has made sure to bluster about Iran’s fictional nuclear ambitions at every stop, but oil has been the main topic on his agenda. Yesterday he met with Saudi leader, King Abdullah and tried to persuade him to up his country’s production, in order to stabilize prices. Bush argued that high oil prices will cause the US to import less oil, and therefore less money […] Read More

Thoughts on the Hollywood Writers’ Strike

Some kind of silly excuse for a Golden Globe Awards ceremony took place last night, with no speeches, performances or jokes – just winners announced by unknown non-celebrities who had the look of Star Search contestants in the “spokesmodel” category. The impact of the writers’ strike on the event and activities surrounding it reportedly cost the Los Angeles economy anywhere from 75 to 100 million dollars. If the Oscars suffer the same fate – which […] Read More

Stupid product of the week: PUR Flavored Water Filter

Is it really too much trouble to add flavor to your water after you pour it? I was busy washing dishes while my girlfriend was watching TV in the background (yeah, that’s how things roll at my house), when a commercial for PUR Flavored Water Filters came on. I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t want to believe my ears. Once, under similar circumstances I’d mis-heard a commercial for “Immodium EZ Chews” as “Immodium Easy […] Read More

Chad is a douchebag

Am I the only one who wants to punch my TV whenever I see Chad on those Alltel commercials? He reminds me of the pretty rich boy from every teen movie – the one who dates the popular girl, drives a fancy car and treats everyone around him like shit. It doesn’t help that the other characters in the commercials are the kinds of lovable geeks we remember fondly from those same movies. Wouldn’t the […] Read More

I don’t want to talk to my car

I’ve been seeing a lot of advertisements for cars that feature voice recognition technology. Like this clever one for Ford’s SYNC: Or this one for the Ford Focus: I enjoy these commercials, but I’m not buying what they’re selling. SYNC might be cool, and it could even save my life by automatically dialing 911 after an accident.The thing is, I could talk to my car too if I wanted to. But I don’t. I’d feel […] Read More

How to tell if Google is going to kill (or acquire) your business

I recently got Google Analytics wired up on this blog, and it’s a pretty nifty application. It’s perfect for a small-fry like me, but as I browse the web, I occasionally find it running on some pretty high-profile, high-volume websites, so I wonder what its impact has been on the incumbents. I’ve had some exposure to Omniture SiteCatalyst, WebTrends and a few other analytics platforms – many of which require training and experience to really […] Read More


After using the WordPress default “kubrick” theme for months longer than I wanted to, I finally got around to redesigning this blog. I wanted a fluid layout, on the minimal side. What do you think?

36 shots

Along with the usual flow of annual family newsletters and photographic Christmas cards, featuring matching cable-knit sweaters and first visits to Santa, this year I received a handful of emails with links to online photo albums. Lots and lots of pictures of babies and toddlers – many clearly taken within seconds of each other. Dozens from a single evening. It occurred to me that this generation of kids will certainly be the most recorded one […] Read More

Pronouns used by the candidates in their post-caucus speeches

File this under “random.” I’m not sure what to make of this, but as I was listening to the speeches of the various candidates after the caucus results were in, it occurred to me to count the number of times they used various pronouns. Incidentally, I found no evidence that Fred Thompson actually spoke at all after his third place finish, so I substituted McCain – who was virtually tied with Thompson anyway. Some things […] Read More

What have I been up to?

Part of the reason I write so infrequently here, is because I write quite a bit here and here. Also, there’s work. I know that work is not a good excuse, especially in light of the fact that during the busiest months in my entire life – in Singapore – I posted more frequently than ever. But work has been busy. And I’m really enjoying it. We just got a big write up on TechCrunch, […] Read More

Configuring for Gmail

In the latest version of in Leopard, some of the fields have moved. I had some trouble sending mail because I was used to the older version, and I couldn’t find the field for setting the SMTP port and authentication. Anyway, I have it up and running now, so I figured I’d post some screenshots. First, in your Gmail settings, make sure you have either POP or IMAP enabled, depending on which you want […] Read More

Microsoft made me miss my bus

I spent several hours on Friday unsuccessfully trying to install Parallels and then Windows XP on my Macbook Pro. I was able to get it up and running over the weekend through some inelegant workarounds, and today I found myself fully in the Office Space world that is Windows. 10 minutes before the departure of the last #5 bus from the downtown depot, I shut down my computer. Well, I asked it to shut down. […] Read More

sorry officer

Today on my way home from work, walking a couple of blocks in a bad part of town, I craned to see whether my bus was approaching. A SFPD cruiser pulled over to creep along beside me, and the officer rolled down the window. “What are you looking for?” he asked me. “What?” “What are you looking for?” Reflexively defensive, “Er… I was looking to see whether my bus… uh… I’m just transferring busses, and […] Read More

An open letter to the class of 1987

As I mentioned recently, I attended my 20-year high school reunion last month, and I enjoyed myself. I haven’t been very good about keeping in touch with people, and it was good to see friends I was once very close to. One of my good friends from high school was (very) pregnant during the reunion weekend, and the other day I received the news that she gave birth to her fourth child, and first daughter. […] Read More

Why the Democrats will lose in ’08 – Part 1

The Republican party is a shambles, and a Democrat will win the presidency in 2008. So say the pundits. In fact, they don’t even say it anymore. They don’t need to because everyone knows it is a fact. But I’m not so sure. And I’m worried. I donated some money to Barack Obama’s campaign a few months ago, and now I get emails nearly every day requesting more. The most recent of these was entitled […] Read More

Era of backwards

Doesn’t it seem a bit strange that the places in this country most likely to be attacked by terrorists – New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles – are also the least supportive of the war, and least likely to send sons and daughters into battle? Meanwhile, places with virtually no chance of being attacked, are the ones who zealously support the war and send their loved ones off to the meat grinder. Of course, the […] Read More

On Measuring Influence

Yesterday’s word of the day, apparently, was “influence.” At least that’s what was on the mind of a few big bloggers. Steve Rubel started the conversation by declaring dead the notion that link count equals influence. He argues that counting inbound links is irrelevant outside the blogosphere – in Facebook or Twitter for example – where many conversations go down. His bottom line is that using inbound links as the barometer of influence misses too […] Read More

Design Observer joins the de facto Gore campaign

William Drenttel posted his support for a Gore ticket at Design Observer today. I like Al Gore. I think he’d make a great president. I agree with William on all counts, but I was dismayed to see his post. If the Bush presidency has done one good thing, it was to light a fire in the hearts of Americans. We were prosperous and apathetic before. Now we’re prosperous and passionate. We were asleep. Now we’re […] Read More

The trouble with CGM

The notion that consumer-generated content lacks authority is not a new one of course. Wikipedia has been in the middle of this storm for a while now, and then there was that recent report (I wish I could remember where I saw it) about the proportion of web content ranked highly in search results that is generated by teens. This morning I found this collection of bad user-generated reviews of great books (that is, […] Read More

italian dreams

I started a new job recently. This came with the usual changes – new office, new policies, processes, people – but one of the peripheral changes is a new set of coffee and lunch options. Tully’s is the coffee spot on my new block. The other day, I stopped in for the first time and joined the queue. I was listening to my iPod and engrossed in a magazine article, so when my turn came, […] Read More

my california taxes at work

Today, I took my car to the nearest Shell station to get it smog checked – a bi-yearly(?) ritual for drivers in California. The friendly folks at the Shell station took one look at my registration renewal paperwork from the California DMV, however, and said, “oh, you’re test only.” Me: “What does that mean?” Shell guy: “It means they’re picking on you.” [beat] Shell guy: “Seriously, it means we can’t do your smog check. We’re […] Read More

nbc goes meta

YouTube got a lot of flack for making a recent deal with NBC, so perhaps it was not NBC’s prerogative to lampoon it. Still, you gotta respect the network’s moxie for going head on at the controversy with this video: As long as the root cause isn’t killing anyone, this is exactly what a company should to address a sticky PR situation. Respond directly, with humility and a sense of humor. Props NBC. I see […] Read More

open source marketing

You know you’ve created something good when your fans create a crop circle to honor your product. Yesterday, I read a nice piece from Business Week about how Mozilla is leveraging grassroots and guerilla tactics in its bid to become mainstream. There are dotcoms, and there are dot orgs. Dot org means there’s a mission, a higher calling. It smells cleaner. It invites you in, treats you as family. With Mozilla, the mission is to […] Read More

pandora – deathmatch

My next deathmatch post was going to compare these two music recommendation services. I’ve used both pandora and for a little while, and I’ve been taking some notes. I love them both, but I have my favorite. Thing is, someone else already wrote such a good piece on this topic. It’s way better than what I was going to write, so… what he said. That was easy.

apple – windows death match

Ok, this isn’t exactly a new topic, but some thought-provoking (and entertaining) nuggets have come across the wire recently. This photo nicely sums up my long series of rants about Apple’s one-button mouse. Several people sent me this parody of an exercise whereby Microsoft redesigns the iPod packaging. I’m not sure who’s responsible for My Busted Apple at, but it made me laugh. On a more serious note, someone named Garr Reynolds authored an […] Read More


Did that get your attention? That’s the name of the movie I saw last night, as part of the San Francisco Independent Film Festival. It’s a documentary about the word, not a portrayal of the act, so don’t be offended. Or be offended. That’s the power of fuck I suppose. After indulging in Monday’s all-you-can-eat pizza night at Goat Hill with my nerd friends, I took my favorite girl to the perfect Valentine’s Day date […] Read More

thailand pictures and final word

I finally posted my pictures from the Khao Lak trip. Enjoy. My last post from Thailand was somewhat cynical, and I owe this blog a more balanced account, now that the trip is over. While my cynicism didn’t really go away, I ended the experience with an overall good feeling about it. It helped that in the middle of week two, I finally got to see the destroyed homes we were replacing. In the end, […] Read More

habitat thailand: day three

Today I started to question this whole gig. It feels more than a little strange in a country where labor is cheap to have paid money to come here to build houses with a team of twelve other people who have little or no construction experience, when the same money could have paid for more than twice the number of experienced builders. I don’t want to be cynical, but feels just slightly artificial, designed to […] Read More

habitat thailand: day one

Tonight I went to see some sort of celebration. It was no big production, and it wasn’t all that interesting, but the vibe was good. Some people in a village 30 minutes south of here set up a small stage by a big blue boat that washed into their village during the tsunami. A band was playing. People were selling silk flowers, woven handbags and other crafts. A group of women had set up a […] Read More

habitat thailand: day zero

It’s a cloudy Sunday afternoon here, relatively cool. I woke up very early this morning, tossed and turned in the pitch darkness for a while, then watched the interior of my room gradually take shape as the sun rose. The air conditioner hummed along and cooled the room nicely, but filled it with a faint mildewy smell. I have a roomate. Tom. He’s from L.A., a nice guy but the kind of nice you want […] Read More

asia again

I’m in the Bangkok airport right now, with a couple hours to kill. Friends have asked me whether this trip is for business or pleasure, and the answer is a little more complicated than that. It’s definitely not business. Let’s call it pleasure with a purpose. I had a couple of weeks of time-off I needed to use before the end of the year, and I signed up for a trip with Habitat for Humanity […] Read More

[ex-]lax plaza

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been working in LA. My hotel, the LAX Plaza, is across the street from our office, and our office is across the street from the client. So I walk to work, walk to client meetings. I can’t get over how bizarre that feels in LA. Of course I still rent a car, because after work, the Culver City area is just a strip mall ghetto. They’re renovating the LAX Plaza […] Read More

on the road again

My job has me traveling again already. This time it’s just to LA for a short project, so I can come home on the weekends. Seems like all of our new business is in SoCal all of a sudden. Bizarrely, the client is a block away from my company’s LA office. A walking commute in LA? Tonight, I was supposed to see my friend CC and possibly her crew of Singapore Airlines flight attendants, who […] Read More

perfect location

I had brunch at The Ramp this morning with my friend Bee. The Ramp has been my default Sunday post-laundromat stop for the past couple of weeks (and for the month of May, when I was last in SF). The weather has been perfect, and The Ramp offers some of the best outdoor seating in the city, right beside the water in China Basin. But that’s part of what bothers me about the place. If […] Read More

partnership of pain

To kill the best part of an hour at Changi Airport, I went for a foot massage. That, incidentally, is another thing I’ll miss about Singapore. Storefront massage. Why can’t our country – somewhere amongst the Radio Shacks, Foot Lockers and Jamba Juices – stick little, pretty massage and foot reflexology joints? There were several young, spry looking people working there, but they were all occupied with other customers when I arrived. So I got […] Read More

goodbye for now, redux

For the past few days, I’ve taken every opportunity to tell people here that I’ve been in their country for close to a year, and that I’m headed home now. I suppose it’s as if I’m secretly begging Singapore to say it will miss me. But the truth is I’m secretly telling Singapore I will miss it. When I agreed to travel for this project last October, it was on the condition that it would […] Read More

customer service

Soon after I arrived in Singapore last October, the Straits Times ran a series on customer service in Singapore. The paper’s assessment was pretty grim. It seemed the caliber of customer service in Singapore was awfully low. This didn’t ring true to me. Or at least it wasn’t a reflection of my own experience. At that time, I had just finished a one-month stay in the Conrad Hotel, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been […] Read More

hotel transit

I had to check out of Fraser Suites this morning, even though I’m not leaving Singapore until tomorrow. After staying there for nine months (minus the Month of May), it seems my room was not available for one more night. A while ago, Thavy said I could stay with her anytime I want, so I tried yesterday to take her up on her offer. She’s got a very comfortable (two-bedroom?) flat just down the road […] Read More


She was walking a few steps ahead of me, on the the way back to the hotel from the market on the ground floor. I’d seen her around, but I hadn’t met her. She held the door for me, which created a bit of an awkward moment, because I was suddenly just a step in front of her in the empty coridor. I broke the silence. “I’ll get the next one.” I held the next […] Read More


I recently went to see a fortune teller named Marwan. Three of my colleagues visited him the week before me, on a referral from our pixel elf, May. My colleagues were amazed and sort of freaked out by how accurate – and specific he was, without any input from them at all. So I couldn’t pass it up. I had a sort of double motive for going. My life feels very up-in-the-air right now. My […] Read More

lazy (not) sunday

You know your work has gone to a bad place when you feel guilty for working only a half day… on a Sunday. Which is exactly what I did today. I’ve been neglecting this blog, emails from friends and family, and all my hobbies really, not to mention my own health and well-being, for weeks. My thoughts aren’t completely consumed by work, but my time is. I have plenty of things to write about. Things […] Read More

padang bai

I jetted off to Bali over the weekend to visit my sister (who’s there for a month with her husband and their four kids) and also to do a bit of diving. We had perfect weather, and it was really great to see my sister and the kids. And the diving was unbelievable. Check out these pix taken with my brother-in-law’s camera (mostly by him). My colleagues all seemed to give me a bit of […] Read More

crazy raymond

Raymond Seet, our dive instructor, is the Singapore embodiment of a “dude” – dark-skinned and constantly grinning, with the kind of impressively wild hairstyle that can only be achieved through years of salt water and wind exposure. He led our group through the PADI theory class and the pool session – both of which I skipped, because I’d already passed the SSI version of these. I did show up for the final evening of quizzes […] Read More

open water, day one

Last Friday, eleven of us packed ourselves and our dive equipment into Raymond’s small van and headed off to Malaysia for the weekend. Our mission was to get our open water scuba certifications. Six of us left Fraser Suites just after dinner. We stopped at Raymond’s office to pick up our rented gear and another couple of divers. Next was a truly harrowing night ride to the port of Mersing in Malaysia. 100+ kph. Skidding […] Read More

open water, prologue

A while back, I met a woman named Sharon at a bar. I have to say, I have no memory of what she looks like. I can barely remember anything about her, but I have her number in my contacts list, and she sms’s me from time to time. From these text messages, I have learned that she is an avid diver. As a side note, it’s interesting that I’ve maintained a steady – if […] Read More

dive buddy

For this weekend’s trip to Malaysia, I’ll be joined by a few of my colleagues and a couple of their girlfriends. That’s a story in itself. I didn’t want to be linked up to some random stranger, so I asked my colleague, Betts, if he was interested in coming along as my dive buddy. He said he was interested but reminded me that his girlfriend would be arriving in Singapore in a few days, and […] Read More

get a life

At the Mexican dinner on Saturday night, I spent some time playing catch with James, the five-year-old son of my colleague Judy. He asked me if I would hang out with him sometime and started to propose a slew of activities – the Fraser Suites playroom, miniature golf, ice cream… Eventually, he said he’d make a list and call me at 10:30 the next morning. Too much, this kid. And on Sunday morning, he actually […] Read More

smitty’s cantina

My first meal in California after six months in Singapore was Mexican food. So was my next meal, and my next. So, when I was getting ready to return to Singapore, I picked up something you absolutely cannot find here: handmade tortillas and real taqueria salsa. I brought these in quantity and hosted a big Mexican feast for my compadres on this project. I spent Saturday morning shopping at the Tiong Bahru wet market, and […] Read More

chopsticks and men who cook

It’s amazing how often I get comments here about my chopsticks technique, or the fact I don’t mind chili sauce. Even my Singaporean colleagues who’ve travelled quite a bit seem amazed to see an ang mo wielding chopsticks with any proficiency. And women I meet in Southeast Asia are amused to no end that I can cook, and even more amused to learn that I actually enjoy cooking. In traditional circles, men don’t cook. In […] Read More

more on doors, etc.

A few months ago, my colleague Crystal declared that one of the first things she will do after she returns to the US is go into a public bathroom and “use about 500 paper towels”. She was referring to the general scarcity of paper towels and napkins in Singapore. Public restrooms in Singapore tend to have hot air hand dryers. What this translates to is that people here (men anyway, I can’t speak for the […] Read More

singapore redux

I’m back in Singapore. It’s good to see my incredibly hardworking colleagues, and it’s been nice to begin to reconnect with my Singapore friends. I met Thavy and Shelly the other night at Brix for a little dancing and a lot of alcohol. A new band called Bliss(?)was playing – I believe it was their first-ever show there – but their repertoire was basically the same as the usual house band. Still, they were more […] Read More

the skeptic’s annotated bible

Today I discovered the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, a website that strives to address the following catch-22: …faith tells [believers] they should read the Bible, but by reading the Bible they endanger their faith. The SAB’s annotations flag things like * Injustice * Absurdity * Cruelty and Violence * Intolerance * Contradictions * Family Values * Good Stuff * Science and History * Interpretation One of the Bible stories that always bothered me is the story […] Read More

china world

At the start of 2001, the twin towers stood confidently in lower Manhattan, Iraq was languishing in the back of the news pages (Afganistan was out of sight and out of mind) and Bush-the-younger could still get away with calling himself a “uniter, not a divider.” The clearly-starting-to-teeter US economy was the main source of domestic anxiety, and our foreign policy was heavily focused on China. Now Iraq, and the war on terror, have stolen […] Read More

marketing ux

Driving into the city on I-80 today, I saw a billboard for touting the website’s “better interface”. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen User Experience (UX) highlighted so prominently to sell a website. Does this mean the market recognizes the narrowing distinction between websites and software? Does it mean UX is leaving the confines of the technorati? Both?

black white gray

On Anca’s blog tonight, I came across this H.L. Mencken quote… Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized […] Read More

san francisco international arts festival

Last week was the first week of the San Francisco International Arts Festival, and there are a lot of good things to see. I saw three shows over the weekend, including one called Pandora 88 by a German duo calling themselves Fabrik Companie. The piece was a beautiful blurring of the line between theatre and dance, staged inside a box roughly 1 1/2 times the size of a refrigerator. It began with the children’s games […] Read More


Since I’ve been back in San Francisco, I’ve completely neglected my blog. One posting every two or three weeks is not what I’m aiming for. It’s not like I’m lacking material. What I’m lacking is the proper state of mind. As a foreigner in foreign lands, my mind was in a constant and hightened state of discovery. By virtue of the fact that I was new there, everything there seemed new to me. Even things […] Read More

city of irony

I’ve been back in San Francisco for more than a week now. I’ve mainly been reconnecting with friends, eating a lot of Mexican food and trying to catch up on my sleep. And neglecting my blog. The other day, I stepped into Urban Outfitters to browse t-shirts and jackets, and after six months in Singapore, I was completely unable to wrap my mind around the irony oozing from every shelf in the store. Between Jesus […] Read More

goodbye for now

I’m leaving today. I’ve packed up my humble home of six months, and I’m ready to board my flight back to San Francisco. I have so many feelings swirling around inside me that I can’t tell whether the balance is ultimately tipping towards happy or sad. Only my Singapore colleagues will really appreciate this, but after six months, I still don’t have a pass to the offices of my client (a major airline). We filled […] Read More

no record

I lost my camera somehow. As I left my hotel in Hoi An, I peeked into my carry-on bag to make sure I had my camera, iPod, journal, book. Everything was there. But when I unpacked, I found that my camera case – which was in my carry-on bag – was empty. I’m sad to lose the camera of course, but I’m much sadder to lose the pictures I took on this last trip. :o(

fishing and driving

On my last full day in Hoi An, I went fishing on the river with Dao’s father. Dao was there with her sister and cousin, and it was the first time they’d been out fishing with their father, so it was an event for all of us. We tried three different spots on the river but didn’t catch anything except a bunch of thumb-sized puffer fish, which were so plentiful in one spot that I […] Read More

coffee & tea

By sheer coincidence, I bumped into Anh last night. He’s the old man who drove me around Hoi An and the surrounding villages during my four day stay in January. I had looked for him and Son at Sao Mai earlier in the week, so it was a nice surprise to see him in town last night. He took me to Son’s house – a tiny $10-a-month room he shares with his sister and girlfriend […] Read More


I woke up feeling pretty poorly today. I’m still shaking something off from last week, and mornings are the worst. Last night I had a bowl of pho at Sao Mai and chatted with Uyen and Thanh – two women who work there, who remembered me from my last visit. Today or tomorrow, I’ll try to make time to go back and photograph them. Across the alley, beside the river, a man and a young […] Read More