Journal March 2018


Realized A Light in the Attic wasn’t on my Great™ Books list (a book I spent a lot of time with growing up).

I still have my copy, and I’m really glad I do. Of the stuff I own today (including clothes, furniture, gadgets), most of it feels replaceable or inessential. But there’s a (small, now) collection of toys, books, and LEGO that I see keeping for good — they really are the lowest limit of my minimalism.

A Message From Mark Zuckerberg's PR Team [DO NOT PUBLISH]

“The most important thing Facebook can do is help us connect with each other and brands.”

Game Maker’s Toolkit: Adaptive Soundtracks

It is so common in Seattle for people to cancel plans. Super frustrating.


Got a really kind, surprise, hand-written note from Casey — in the mail (real-mail). What a guy!

NYT Popcast: In Defense of Ashlee Simpson + Part 2

I can’t get enough of deep dives into pop culture by people who seriously care.

The Convivial Society: Embracing Limits of Technology

“In order to satisfy at least some of our desires, we make tools.… It is the partial truth contained in the commonplace ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’… [And] it is no less true that invention is the mother of necessity.… ‘Every technical innovation seems to require additional technical advances in order to make it fully effective.’” #digitalanxiety

Kranzberg’s Six Laws of Technology

technological voluntarism: “technological determinism’s opposite. Technology merely presents an opportunity, the choice of what to do with it remains ours.”

“A lady came up to the great violinist Fritz Kreisler after a concert and gushed, ‘Maestro, your violin makes such beautiful music.’ Kreisler held his violin up to his ear and said, ‘I don’t hear any music coming out of it.’”

LEGO Technology Satires

content: “communication put to work, made into a commodity to circulate and profit from, whether in money — directly or indirectly — or attention, or both.”


Welcome to the Age of Climate Migration

“the future looks good for the Pacific Northwest, especially cities west of the Cascades, like Seattle and Portland,… [which] will see increased agricultural yields, lower energy costs (due to milder winters) and higher worker productivity.”

Soundtrap, audio production tool

A GarageBand replacement for CWA. It’s funny, the kids are pretty confused by apps that aren’t inside a browser.

Storynory, short audiobooks for kids

Starting a fairytale audiobook unit with the 3rd graders.

Audiotool, advanced music production app

Emoji Art, copy/paste-able emoji art

Reelgood, universal streaming guide


Started prepping for 308. I wish I didn’t have to plan it, build presentations, or grade. But I’m looking forward to being back on campus, working with undergrads, and really getting into the process again.

Love, Simon Good™

Brigsby Bear Good™


Primria Pebble Leather Watch Band (Black) #treatjoeself

GameCube HDMI Adapter

Sent my final freelance invoice — which means I’m officially retired from graphic design… again! Will I continue teaching it and working on my own personal projects? Yes, for sure, and gladly. But is this the end of projects for other people? Pretty sure.

Why Wikipedia Works

“as a donation- and grant-funded nonprofit, [Wikipedia] has no incentive to generate revenue. It’s therefore not caught up in the advertising business, which means it has no need to ensure that users spend a lot of time on the site, which means it’s never fallen prey to the defining techniques of the social web — extremism, sensationalization, clickbait, misleading titles and thumbnails, and so on.”

Red Sparrow Not Great™

McGruff Fights Baby Talk GEICO commercial

I don’t think absolutely everything is available for making into a joke.

Crash Course Media Literacy: Introduction

textural determinism: “the idea that a message’s meaning is inevitably sent and received in its entirety, just as intended, every time. [Which never happens.]”


Visited the UW sophomores’ Design Methods Showcase.

I love and miss these kids. They’re all-stars — positive, humble, doing solid work, and they genuinely seem to like working together.

Rare stuff. I hope the industry doesn’t ruin it.

Lulu, explaining that the sophomores didn’t work as hard this quarter: “We all did our best work because of you.”

Seeing the sophomores again highlights how disconnected I feel from students at CWA. They’re younger, and I know I’ll never relate to them in the same way. But there are other barriers: 1. classroom management, 2. the complexity of teaching with technology, 3. we’re not working on many personally meaningful projects, and 4. my lack of face time generally.

I’m sure I’ll figure these out. But it’s also possible that I won’t ever be satisfied at the elementary level. And that I need to find ways to work with the middle/high schoolers sooner than later.

It’s not that undergrads and UW are perfect for me, either. My classes last summer sucked.

It’s Color & Comp. This last year was the high watermark for connecting with students and enjoying myself as a teacher, and I’ll be working towards that feeling at CWA.

Middle/upper school graphic design club, maybe?

I want more opportunities at CWA to celebrate students’ work. There’ve been a few with the 5th graders, but not enough overall. These moments are important for me as a teacher.

Google Experiment: Art Palette + Dribbble: Search by Hex Color, examples of color palettes in-use

Spotify: Create Similar Playlist


Game Maker’s Toolkit: What Makes a Good Puzzle?

“a good puzzle is: 1. derived from the game’s rules (#limitations, #goals) and 2. has a catch that makes the puzzle seem impossible to finish at first glance. The player can be made to stumble upon that catch if 3. the developer exploits an assumption that the player will make. To overcome the catch and resolve the conflict, the best puzzles 4. ask the player to think laterally and uncover a hidden nugget of knowledge about the game’s rules.

“a catch… is a logical contradiction where two things are in direct conflict.”

“solving the puzzle is like a revelation (a discovery, an epiphany) of some deeper understanding” — learning. “[It’s a] logical consequence of the game’s rules that now become a part of your toolbox going forward.”

Puzzle-solving is evidence of media literacy — understanding the design of the game is what allows you to solve its puzzles.

Totally thinking about this in the context of designing lessons. #teaching

I’m pledging $25–30/month on Patreon now. One of my goals with being solvent is reserving a chunk for the people that continue to help me connect the dots. #treatjoeself

Interview with Seattle rapper Alex Hubbard (aka Fantasy A) + Profile

“If they hide their feelings, nobody will know. If they express their feelings out, people will know, and they will listen”

Zoomquilts: Fantasy + Arkadia, infinitely zooming images

Simone Massoni, illustrator

ILOVEHANDLES, Apple/home accessories

Tug, magnetic outlet adapter

Switchboard, wall hooks

SmorgasBoard, magnetic wooden bulletin board


obso1337, video essays on outdated but influential gadgets

The Chumby and the Pebble

“For products that are locked into an ecosystem,… what happens when the system goes dark?”

“[we’ve started] to blur the line between products being sold as self-contained experiences and just gateways to software as a service.”

“What about… [smart home] appliances that have lifetimes that should be measured in decades?” #digitalanxiety

Tama-Hive, emulated, self-perpetuating Tamagotchi village

Pocket Sprite, keychain game emulator

Tiny Macintosh Plus

What If Silicon Valley Cured Cancer?

Game Night Good™

People in cars can be such unreasonable shitheads. It’s another reason the Tacoma commute has got to go.

FUAY offensive driving


Totally caught up on 2018 journaling. I’ve gotta work harder to stay on top of it.

Crash Course Media Literacy


there are two types of emailers in the world: those who can comfortably ignore unread notifications, and those who feel the need to take action immediately.

Not true — I ignore unread messages, uncomfortably… and don’t take action. #email

Real Life Magazine: How alternative-ness transformed from vital to problematic

“In the wake of Trump’s election, intellectuals and politicos… have not told us to hack, snipe, poach, or otherwise… wage guerrilla war. Instead, we’ve been told to bolster capitalist media…. [It’s] a desire for a narrower world where corporations promise to, once again, produce a stable sense of shared reality through mass culture.”

Tiny Digs, hotel of custom tiny houses in Portland

Thoroughbreds Good™

waneella, looping environments pixel artist


Japanese-Scandinavian Tiny House

Austin Kleon: The tools matter and the tools don’t matter

Piaget: “Every time you teach a child something you forever rob them of the chance to learn it for themselves.”

transcription fluency: “your ideas suffer… when your fingers can’t move as fast as your thoughts.” Custom favorites

BrickPicker videos, LEGO investing

Chrome Music Lab, web-based music experiments

Book of Life: A Privileged Childhood

“It is true privilege when… [an adult is] attuned not just to what a child actually manages to say but to what they might be aspiring yet struggling to explain.”

“when [they] shield us from the worst of their anxiety and rage”

“when [they] don’t set themselves up as perfect or… remote and unavailable”

“when [they] can bear our rebellions and don’t force us to be preternaturally obedient or good”

“and when they themselves reliably seek to explain, rather than impose their ideas.”

Working with little kids is complex. I’m constantly negotiating: 1. compassion vs. discipline, 2. what’s on my mind vs. what’s kid-appropriate/responsible to say/do, 3. decisiveness vs. flexibility, 4. making time for everyone vs. keeping the lesson moving forward. Tons of stuff.

08, chat channels

For a lesson with the 4th graders on sharing personal information online. I gave a list of questions (How old are you? What school do you go to?, etc.) to students who pretended to be ‘strangers’. The rest of the class got to decide (through actual chatting) which information was safe to share.

(Tess) 4th grader: “Fun lesson today!”

Feels like a real win when students take the time to tell me, unprompted, that they had fun.

Designing exercises continues to be one of my favorite aspects of teaching. They’re a problem to solve, and I enjoy figuring it out.

But at CWA, the frustration of managing the class can: 1. affect whether or not a fun lesson actually feels fun, and 2. dilute my ability to be the kind/approachable teacher I try so hard to be.

Kapwing, online video editing toolbox


‘Content’ is a euphemism for bullshit (content marketing, content strategy). The goal often isn’t to inform or provide a service. The goal is attention. #BS

I think this is essential in understanding how people communicate online. Social media invites unnecessary commentary, hot takes, judgement, noise — posting for the sake of having-posted. The medium influences what people choose to communicate using it.

Deckset 2, Markdown presentations app

This has been perfect for my slides at CWA. It's not nuanced enough to use at UW (I use InDesign instead, which is a chore).

Disney/Pixar Script to Screen videos

LECO 1976 typeface, one of the Pebble defaults


Vox: How free games are designed to make money

Vox: How phones are designed to be addicting

Started a unit with the 5th graders: finding examples of the ways their favorite apps/games/sites are designed to be addicting. And then, by editing screenshots, we’ll mockup ideas to make them less so.

I love that I have a job now where I can take things I read/watch/think-about anyway (things I do for fun!) and use them for something real and meaningful.

I asked the kids: “Do you feel addicted to apps/games you use?” And without hesitation, almost all of them raised their hands.

I should not buy Girl Scout cookies.


Real Life Magazine: How Uber and Lyft reinforce racial discrimination

“The car has become the opposite of liberating: a dangerous and expensive hassle that has reshaped the landscape in its image, creating isolation and dependency for everyone”

The Tacoma commute is 10 hours of my week, and I can feel those missing hours. Driving in Seattle traffic (which is endless) is a real headache, too.

I’ve decided that I’m moving to Tacoma this summer, and I’m (unexpectedly) looking forward to living in a smaller city again.

I’ve been super stressed lately, behind on everything measurable (email, boxing, Tasks.txt, sleep, texts?!). And I’m starting a new UW class (HCDE 308) in three weeks. Very nervous about making it work.

Had a helpful conversation with Ashley about the way I’m internalizing kids’ behavior at CWA. (I want them to like me, and it often feels like they don’t — or don’t care either way.) She said this: I have tools, emotionally, that they (as kids) don’t have yet. What I’m reading as intentional or meaningful may not be. And, that (as an adult) I just need to be more resilient.


This American Life: Five Women, #MeToo interviews

Maintaining this page (journaling, generally) is so much work, and I’m always behind in moving notes here.

But it continues to feel like the most valuable thing I do for me. More than movies, more than exercise, more than meditation. This is it.

It’s a source of anxiety, though and I’ve gotta figure out how to stay on top of it. #thispage

Emojipedia blog, emoji commentary and analysis

Why There Aren't Black Family Emojis

The Party Not Great™


Longform: Sean Fennessey, editor at The Ringer

Finally figured out how to send notes to myself while I’m driving, using Siri to create an iOS Reminders + IFTTT to send them to Tasks.txt.

OrSlow Black Denim Work Shirt from Glasswing

This is the most I’ve spent ($215) on a shirt, ever, by far. But I’ve reached a point in my life where it feels smart to invest in things I feel good wearing. And I can afford it. #treatjoeself


Finished the EvoEco logo project, and I’m satisfied (I give it a Good™).

Working on logos, I keep a list of goals and refer to it constantly. (This time, things like: 1. all-caps, 2. looks like a technology company, 3. visualizes a metaphor without being heavy-handed, etc.) — notes from client feedback.

For the client, the list is a reminder of what design actually is. And for me, I can feel satisfied with my work (regardless of how anyone else feels about it).

Karen and I collaborated on this, which was fun. We didn’t work together when I was in grad school, and I’m glad we had the chance.

About the final, she said, “Yeah! That's pretty good!” — which is a serious compliment coming from her. Stoked about that!

In grad school, I felt mostly ignored by the VCD faculty. Near graduation, though — and especially since (with being offered Color & Comp and freelancing with them) — that’s all turned around. Which just, honestly, feels great.

I miss collaborating. My last real collaborator was Adam (six years ago). Our work together was better, I think, than either of us could’ve done on our own. It’s a special thing, letting go of your ego in that process.

Another bonus of CWA is that my job is specifically collaborative. Teachers bring the subject expertise, I bring the project-building/technology thinking. I’m on a team now. That's exiting.

Teaching undergrads has been a surprisingly solo gig, and it’s another reason this move feels right.

Los Angeles Philharmonic logo


Did an emoji lesson with the 4th graders, Based on this. Which I’d bookmarked before I’d even applied to CWA, and was so satisfying to be standing in class, actually doing.

Emojipedia, emoji history

Emojicopy, emoji search + copy/paste

Bose SoundLink Micro speaker #treatjoeself

Big fan of my SoundLink Mini, and I wanted a second (more portable, kid-proof) speaker to use in class.

Teaching little kids with laptops in front of them has been trickier than I expected. Classroom management is one thing (talking, listening, following instructions, attention spans). But the laptops are next level (switching between laptopping and instructions, confusing interfaces, tools that don't work, competing with the infinite fun of the Internet).

But I’m learning. And outside the frustration of those moments, I’m legitimately enjoying it.

That said, it’s embarrassing to be learning in front of other teachers (ironically…!). Especially these teachers, who are really good at their jobs.

But, they continue to say that they’re happy to have me around, that I’m doing well, and that I need to let myself off the hook for the entire first year.

Saul Steinberg: View of the World from 9th Avenue

Questioning the design February 2018


JKDC: Film Streams Case Study

Real Life Magazine: Instagrams of Bullet Journals merge self-help and self-promotion

#bulletjournal #BS

“their ‘authenticity’ prescribes and sells specific ideas of self-care. … what a happy, healthy, productive life looks like (beautiful desks and cups of steaming tea).”

“The self-help industry… tells us to free ourselves even as it says there is something missing in our lives”

“Bullet journaling… raises a question… about how self-documentation for an audience affects the lives we are trying to document.” #thispage

An allegory: “[People] go to visit a tourist attraction promoted [as] the Most Photographed Barn in America. When they arrive they find it surrounded by photographers. No one ever sees the barn; that’s not how it works.”

The American Good™

The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing

“Editing is manipulation.”

Anything designed for another person is a kind of manipulation.

This is why it’s important to be careful with things like advertising and branding, where one person profits by manipulating another person’s perception, understanding, feelings, etc. When designed well, they manipulate without us recognizing they’re designed at all.

Crash Course Sociology: Education In Society + Schools & Social Inequality


Sampulator, web-based music sequencer, trippy optical illusions

Quick, Draw + AutoDraw, world’s largest doodling data set

5th graders’ favorites from “Weird Website Day” today.

Free-play days like this have been really helpful in figuring out what students are into. The themes so far are: creating (drawing, music), editing/customizing, trying to break stuff, and general goofiness.

macOS: Show hidden display resolutions for a connected display (in my case: classroom projector)

Witeboard, in-browser collaborative drawing


Working at an elementary school, it helps to have the ability to not internalize kids’ actions around you. For instance, that the 3rd graders won’t stop talking in your classes, or that many of the 5th graders seem to ignore you outside of class. These are people with a lot on their minds. It's unlikely it has anything to do with you.

Or so I’m telling myself. I internalize all of it. There are days (like today) that I leave feeling pretty ineffectual.

And then… after school, a parent of a 3rd grader told me that her son (George) really enjoys my class. Which is surprising coming from him in particular. Who knows, man!

have i been pwned?, data breach search tool


Just realizing: in theory, my job at CWA is the inverse of my job at UW — teaching the elementary schoolers to deconstruct the things the undergrads are learning to design.

The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited at MoPop

I hadn’t considered how big a role PBS played in my life. Jim Henson and Mister Rogers are still two of my favorite people.

“Kermit the Frog puppet: Designed by Jim Henson”

I really like seeing the word ‘design’ used in places where it’s totally divorced from graphic design and UX.

I hadn't considered before that Big Bird’s neck is a puppeteer’s arm.

Black Panther Not Great™


A drawback to teaching design is that most of my responsibility boils down to ways of asking the same question: “Can you justify why you made that decision?” As wonderful as it’s been (easily the best experience of my life), I’m getting bored. I think my interest (and so, my effectiveness) has peaked. Feels like an ideal time to switch it up.

Everything is new about teaching at CWA (new age group, new subjects, new kind of school, new peers, new questions) — and I’m motivated by figuring it all out. It’s complex and difficult, and I can see being satisfied by it for a long time.

Austin Kleon: How David Sedaris Journals

1. Capture ideas as they happen (I use Drafts). 2. Flesh them out the next day (I do most days, but the harder bits can sit in the queue for weeks). 3. Index them (I’ve started using #hashtags for recurring themes, and it’s all searchable with ⌘+F). 4. Review and coalesce the themes into something that lives outside the journal (I’m imagining this’ll happen eventually with #Ltd and #digitalanxiety, at least).


Annihilation Not Great™

The EvoEco logo project is winding down, and we met to pick the final direction. The best option (the only one that met all of our goals) was dismissed pretty early.

In the Oxide days, this would’ve gotten to me. But I’ve been in this situation so many times that it’s just hilariously predictable. I’m satisfied with having found a pretty good solution, and that’s enough for me.

Another bonus of teaching: if the work is good, it translates directly to success (students connect ideas and have fun doing it). In graphic design, the quality of work is independent of success (it lives and dies by the swords of subjectivity and personal preference).

This came up during the meeting: “You know, it’s like dating: where you can’t really describe why you’re attracted to someone.” Ha! No, I have no idea what that’s like. I know exactly why (logos, dating, anything).

I’ve been surprised to realize over the years that most people aren’t very introspective. It’s my default mode.

Game Maker's Toolkit, video essays on video game design

How Nintendo Makes Decisions Around Gameplay

How Game Designers Protect Players From Themselves

Puzzle Solving vs. Problem Solving

“discovering the solution vs. inventing a solution”

How Jonathan Blow Designs a Puzzle

“A puzzle is never just a puzzle. It’s a communication of an idea from the designer to the player. And solving the puzzle is the player’s way of saying ‘I understand’.”

“The more that a puzzle is about something real and specific, and the less it’s about some arbitrary challenge, the more meaningful that epiphany is.” #design


The 3-Act Lesson Design

1. an engaging and perplexing Act One, 2. an information and solution seeking Act Two, 3. a solution discussion and solution revealing Act Three.

There must be something to this strategy. These map directly to a fun lesson from earlier this month. #teaching

Me: “What did you think of our lesson today?” (Luca and Olivia B) 4th graders: “Not that fun.”

I can take it! I appreciate their willingness to be honest. And I think the best way to gauge a lesson’s effectiveness and fun-ness is to just try it. #LtD

Today, we did two chat sessions: one anonymously, one not (to see if their decision-making changed between them). It did, sorta — the anonymous chat did veer off the rails. Still, I agree, it wasn’t a great exercise.

Although, the conversation afterwards about anonymity on the Internet was solid! I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the level these kids can hang.

I love the 4th graders. Age 9/10 is maximum kid. They have a great balance of self-awareness and self-confidence. It seems to be the last moment of pure childhood before things start getting weird. (And then stay weird for 20+ years.)

Walking around Seattle is like being invisible. I know I’ve written about this so many times, but I haven’t adjusted to it.

I’m really enjoying the train on Thursdays (the Seattle-Tacoma Sounder).

It makes for a long day, though (I have to take the 5:30a bus in Seattle, and I don’t get home until 7:00p).

This has been a disappointing discovery about public transit, generally: the commute itself is great, but the schedule padding around it can eat a lot of extra time. Getting around in Seattle hasn’t been the dense metropolis experience I expected moving here.

It’s been a year since the Lakeside boondoggle. Which was, at the time, heartbreaking. It’s been a solid year since, though. I’m stoked about a future at CWA and retiring from graphic design. Soon, teaching will be, officially, the one thing I do.


This Is Not A Conspiracy Theory #5

“The future of complex systems like our society, our culture, and our economy cannot be predicted. And what cannot be predicted cannot be controlled.… There is no one operating the levers from behind the curtain.”

“Society isn’t like a machine. Society is like a network — a vast interconnected system that constantly changes and constantly evolves”

I tend to procrastinate on lesson planning (this has been true since I started teaching). It’s a creative process, and (as with most creative processes I’m involved in) what I’m really avoiding is the anxiety of not knowing if I’ll figure it out.

Pebble Watchface Generator

PICO-8, tiny game and game-development console

Gustavo Viselner, pixel artist

Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter Are Not Going to Fix This

“[They’ve] devised a way to turn information transfer into something that looks more like a video game”

21st Century Education needs to be more than teaching students how to use consumer tools or come up with new ideas for apps. Students need to understand how the internet works and to form a framework for thinking about truth and power.

This is literally my job now!


For three years, I’ve been working through minimizing my stuff (books, LEGO, video games, toys — most of it from my teens and 20s). This week, I sold/donated the last of what I’d intended to, which means I’m finished minimizing (… for now).

I’m guessing it’s 20% of what I brought to Seattle. All of my stuff (sans furniture) should fit in my car now, which was the goal.

I’m really happy with what’s left. I’ve saved things from each of the categories. Looking through them, 10/15/20/30 years later, it was surprisingly easy to differentiate the meaningful things from the not.

So why did this project take so long? A lot of it was valuable enough that I wanted to find someone who’d appreciate it. (And I pocketed $7,000+ in the process.)

Lock a Mac screen with a keyboard shortcut

LEGO Food-shaped Food Stands

LEGO Idea Conference, on education and learning through play

Attendance is by invitation only. New life goal.


L.M. Sacasas, tech, culture, ethics writer

intentional arc: our perception of the world is shaped by our intentions in that moment.

“a hammer [or camera or smartphone] in hand… transforms how the environment presents itself to us.”

Photo of a Would-Be Assassin, the birth of modern self-consciousness

“the observer effect created by the camera’s presence so heightened one’s self-consciousness that it was no longer possible to simply be.… In order to appear indifferent to the camera, Powell had to perform the part of Lewis Powell as Lewis Powell would appear were there no camera present.”

How MoviePass works

Fresh Air: Mister Rogers

“so much that is spontaneous is… truly inspired.”

A lot of my favorite days in class (like last week’s Scratch hacking) were last-minute changes of plan that ended up working out really well.

“I’d like [children] to know that… there is a full array of emotions in life, and all of them are fine. It's what we do with them that matters.”


What do you do when confronted with an inexplicable and alarming situation? Well, you can panic or give in to some other tyrannical emotion, like dread. Or you can escape into a book or a puzzle or,… a bottle of gin. But there is another possible response to the unknown and potentially menacing, and that is thinking. #journaling

Chris Rock: Tamborine Good™

Finally went to Rachel’s Ginger Beer


LEGO Build-Your-Own BrickHead

Tiny House Blog

Living Big in a Tiny House videos

Starting my research. It’s very possible that I could be living in a tiny house within the next year.

One of the major things I want out of the next phase is a home without shared walls.

Build Better Bricks, pop culture LEGO builds

Larry Nance Jr. double tap dunk

I live for the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

UW Basketball vs. Colorado + Isaiah Thomas’ jersey retirement


I’m accumulating a huge list of CWA tasks for later (stuff to read, people to meet, classes/clubs to visit, tools to research, and… email). And I have a growing list of responsibilities, in a good way (added recently: faculty tech lessons and running concepting workshops for redesigning the library). But it’s a part-time job, I’m only getting paid for a part-time job, and I want to be careful not to work full-time hours.


Found the other Bachelor fans at CWA. I’m really comfortable now telling people that I’m into the show.

Anymore, I jump at the chance to get these kinds of counter-intuitive preferences out in the open (also in this category: Riverdale, LEGO, Taco Bell). They tend to be super effective filters for finding and connecting with people I enjoy being around. Especially the ‘embarrassing’ things.

Radio Diaries DIY Handbook


Over the last three years, talking to UW students (today, Richelle) going through the design/tech industry interview process: the whole thing pisses me off. Multiple rounds of interviews, presentations, and design exercises — over weeks, sometimes months. Raising and dashing hopes, when any of these kids are better than you deserve, and the job is likely basic design BS on a relatively lame product anyway. It’s unnecessary, condescending, and sets a weird precedent for young people just starting their professional lives.

The bloated process feeds the industries’ overstuffed egos, but it disguises an important fact: that the kids have the power. The industries need their enthusiasm, open-mindedness, fresh ideas, perspectives, and un-jadedness.

FUAY interview process

I love (now that I’ve officially moved on) being a design industry outsider who’s still connected enough to be able to say things like this.

The tech industry, like every industry, doesn’t optimize for the well-being of its customers. Smartphones and their apps are ruinously addictive by design.

Habit Summit

“What you’ll learn: The common design patterns of habit-forming products. The stages of habit formation and how to optimize for user retention. Practical steps for leading a design process to ensure your product is used regularly.” #weird

“Habits” being code for sales. The primary goal is selling stuff. Always.

This is one of the big ideas I want to instill at CWA: helping students ask themselves why any media/tech works the way it does — questioning the design of it. Knowing that an app has been designed to be distracting is helpful in resisting its gravity.


Exercise with the 5th graders: choose an existing game Scratch game, open the code, and improve it (they call it “hacking”). Super win. They deleted body parts, turned characters upside down, added cheesy poofs, unicorns, photos of their own heads, custom songs. It got really weird, and they loved it.

We also shared their hacks with the whole class at the end, which I haven’t done often enough at CWA.

A fun/frustrating discovery about teaching elementary schoolers (vs. undergrads) is that the younger kids really want to break things. It's often the first thing they try.

Trying to break things can be a valuable way to figure out how they work. I’m embracing it.

Another example: the first day I used E.ggtimer, their initial response was to see how long 1000000000 seconds is (31+ years).

E.ggtimer is one of the most useful teaching tools I have — been using it since the start (seven years now).

Pop Classic Picture Books, children’s book interpretations of movies (Back to the Future, Home Alone)

Teachers and students with personalized handshakes


Bought four personal training sessions at TITLE (with Amar). Working on my kickboxing technique, which is pretty bad. #treatjoeself

64 Things To Worry About, heat map of the state of the world

Stéphane Elbaz, type/graphic designer


School Technology Changes School Culture

“some schools might get simulations that train teachers how to respond to a potential shooting, and some schools get metal detectors that interpolate all students as potential shooters.”

Web Literacy For Student Fact-Checkers: The Instruction Manual to Reading on the Modern Internet

Mike Caulfield, media literacy and educational technology writer

Geoffroy de Crécy, illustrator/animator

When young people feel seen, heard, and respected, they will want to engage. When they see that you hold each of them to high standards and you implement those standards fairly, they engage. When we admit adults’ hypocrisy, they engage. And when they are given a voice to express their own experiences and opinions, they will hold themselves to higher standards then we can ever impose.

2018 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action Good™

A student (Jinal) from India emailed to ask about the quote: “In what way do you think this would change your audience's perspective?” I said: 1. I think it’s important to recognize how many things in the world (even the smallest, least interesting things) have thoughtful people behind them. And to adopt that kind of purposefulness in our own lives. 2. Also, when you recognize the degree to which the world has been designed, it allows you to question the goal of those things — which can be negative. ‘Great’ design can be applied maliciously, too. 3. And, I think it’s important to consider removing yourself from the work. It's common for design professionals to signal that ‘a designer was responsible for this’ — for the sake of branding and recognition. But, I think, with the cost of adding noise and complexity to the world.


Facebook flattens everything out and makes it the same.… [It’s] the great de-contextualizer.

And not only Facebook. This is true for anything we look at through a tiny window. The tinier the window, the more context removed. So: 1. stuff on platforms (Facebook, Twitter) is less contextualized than on its source, 2. stuff on phones is less contextualized than on laptops, and 3. stuff on laptops is less contextualized than outside of them. #digitalanxiety

It benefits Facebook and Twitter to flatten everything because it allows them to (like much of the social Internet) co-opt other peoples’ work for their own gain.

Relates back to George Saunders’ great disconnect.

This American Life: Words You Can’t Say


List of colors (with names): A–F, G–M, N–Z

25 Principles of Adult Behavior by John Perry Barlow

The Right to Repair (electronic devices)

The Ringer is just so hands-down my favorite blog. NBA news, Bachelor recaps, skeptical tech articles. It’s perfect.

A 4th grader (Rebecca) asked me if ‘sensitive’ was a positive or negative thing to say about someone. I said that it can be either, but in this case (a valentine), it was a compliment.

I grew up thinking that it was bad — that I was touchy and unreasonable. But to me, now (and I think to the student who used it) sensitivity means recognizing things (socially, creatively) that maybe other people don’t or can’t see.

A lot of what I think about starts with being sensitive to discrepancies between the way things appear vs. the way they actually are (weirdness, realness, bullshit, social media, media literacy, salesmanship, design industry shallowness).

Controversy and Outrage as Marketing Strategy

multitasking… is distraction


Kindle Oasis #treatjoeself

Upgrading from my Paperwhite. The grayscale Kindles continue to bring a lot of joy to my life.

Snap to activate Pebble backlight

I’m loving this watch!

Kindle and Pebble are both purposefully grayscale, low-functionality devices.

For every Star Wars movie [Rian Johnson] makes, we lose out on one or two original… movies that might have been better but don’t fit into an existing franchise. (The same goes for Ryan Coogler and Black Panther.)

Both directors on my Great™ movies list (Looper and Creed).

This is a helpful way to think about my teaching vs. design/tech industry question. Sure, consumer tech pays well and sounds cool, but what work wouldn’t I be doing?

This is a hilariously contradictory set of statements: calling the Kindle one of the most valuable things I own and then implying that designing for Amazon wouldn’t be a valuable way to spend my time. It was even the company I’d hoped to work for (and had an initial call with, the same week as my call with CWA).

I stand by both statements, though.

Zencastr, web-based interview recording

Trump, Twitter, and Branding

“[Trump’s] superficiality served him well in business, where… brands can exert a strong emotional pull on the public without communicating anything of substance.”

“With its emphasis on brief messages and reflexive responses, Twitter… encourages and rewards [a] reductive view of the world.”

“What [Twitter] teaches us, through its whirlwind of fleeting messages, is that nothing lasts. Everything is disposable. Novelty rules.”


Common Sense Education: Digital Footprint lesson, analyzing social media profiles

Did this today with the 5th graders, and they were into it. It’s the kind of lesson I want to be able to design, on any topic: 1. an exercise that starts with questions, where 2. students are self-motivated to investigate, make decisions, and apply concepts, followed by 3. a fun discussion for reflecting what they learned. #teaching

Today was my first truly Great™ day at CWA. Lots of confirmation (during class, in the hallway, at recess) that I’m a solid match for this job, professionally and personally. I feel like I’ve reached a tipping point where I’m no longer the new guy and now an integrated part of the school.

I think the “Google Mr. Sparano” exercise from last week was really helpful. And especially, finding this website. Maybe it's weird, but it helps a lot in connecting with my students.

The Blue Marble Rube Goldberg contraption


AoM: Why Your First Impression Matters

social exchange theory: “we evaluate others by the [social] gifts that they bring us and the [social] costs that they incur.”

The four social gifts: 1. being appreciated, 2. having something in common, 3. improving your mood, and 4. learning something new.

MeshWe Wireless Keyboard/Trackpad Connector

Allows me to walk around the room while I’m teaching, which I feel significantly more comfortable doing — it’s huge. (Learned this in Color & Comp last quarter.) The kids think the wireless-ness is pretty cool, too.


More Pebble watchfaces: Weathergraph + Casio Databank + Squared + Metro Flip + Disarray + Pixelated Analog + TimeStyle + Super Simple + Digital Classic + Weather Land + Punch-Out!! + Duck Hunt

But What If We're Wrong?, Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past Good™

“We constantly pretend our perception of the present day will not seem ludicrous in retrospect, simply because there doesn’t appear to be any other option.”

Klosterman’s Razor: the philosophical belief that the best hypothesis is the one that reflexively accepts its potential wrongness to begin with.”

“certain things get remembered while certain others get lost [when they] feel more reflective than entertaining.”

“what we know about Kafka’s life [specifically, that he spent it in obscurity] is part of what makes him ‘great,’”

“we construct what we remember and what we forget.… It’s difficult to cope with the infinite variety of the past, and so we apply filters, and we settle on a few famous names.”

“In Western culture, pretty much everything is understood through the process of storytelling, often to the detriment of reality.”

“History is defined by [average, non-expert] people who don’t really understand what they are defining.”

This connects back to Mike Sager's concept of common understanding

“Shakespeare is better than Marlowe and Jonson because Shakespeare is more like Shakespeare, which is how we delineate greatness within playwriting.”

“what do you know about human history that was not communicated to you by someone else?”

“it’s… absurd to think that everything we know about history is real.”

“If it can be reasonably argued that it’s impossible to create a document that can withstand the evolution of any society for [hundreds of] years, doesn’t that mean present-day America’s pathological adherence to [the Constitution] will eventually wreck everything?”

“[In Internet culture,] discourse is dominated by the reaction to (and the rejection of) other people’s ideas, as opposed to generating one’s own.”

Going to the trouble of copying highlights to this page seems helpful for reinforcing ideas from stuff I’m reading.


CyKey one-handed ‘chording’ keyboard

FUAY good taste


Joost Swarte, cartoonist

Nicholas Carr, technology writer

The Metadata of Experience, The Experience of Metadata

“The likes I give, or withhold, say something about me as well as about the object or experience being rated. The generation of metadata should never be taken lightly.”

“I know what just happened, and I know what happens next. Only the present escapes me.”

Design for Misuse

“The iPhone does have a ‘Do Not Disturb’ setting…, but that setting is turned off by default. To put it a different way, the iPhone’s default setting ‘Disturb.’”

Austin Kleon: The Way We Talk About Influence is Backwards

“In matters of influence, it is the receptor who takes the initiative, not the emitter.”

Hostiles Good™


Pebble 2 smartwatch Great™ #treatjoeself

Bought this to keep up at CWA (the elementary school day is pretty intense, schedule-wise — who knew).

I haven’t worn a wristwatch since (I think) my Casio calculator watch… when I was an elementary schooler.

Which the Pebble has clearly been inspired by (along with other favorite 80s/90s gadgets like the Game Boy and Tamagotchi). I love the grayscale, the pixels, the limited functionality. Love it.

I chose not to get an Apple Watch because it can do too much, and I don’t like the idea of managing another gadget at all. But the Pebble is the ideal mix (for me) of fun gadgetness and constraints. #digitalanxiety

Time After Time (TTMM) Pebble watchfaces

Using Google Sheets/Docs as a database for a simple website + example


Cult of Pedagogy, teaching podcast

The Magic of Validation

“You may not feel the same way, and their feelings might create problems for you, but they are what they are.”

I’ve been working on a logo design project for EvoEco in between CWA. On paper, it’s an interesting project, for people I respect, and I usually enjoy the puzzle of designing logos. But this might’ve been a mistake. I’m just so mentally checked out of graphic design freelance. I’d always rather be doing something else.

Maybe the biggest problem here is that I’m not thinking about this logo when I’m not sitting in front of it. In the past, I could rely on that subconscious processing, but that’s not happening here.

It’s likely, though, that this’ll be my last freelance project maybe ever. Stoked about that., word visualization tool

Ideas > Logistics January 2018


Teaching technology classes at an elementary school probably looks like a big change from where I started (as a graphic designer). But it doesn’t feel that way. To me, graphic design was always a way of combining my interests in 1. process/decision-making, 2. making stuff, and 3. technology. Over time, I just discovered that teaching is a more immediate and satisfying way to work with those same ideas.


For the first time at CWA, did a post-project reflection (Garage Band sound effect recordings, with the 5th graders): “What worked well? What would you change?” They were really receptive to giving feedback and being listened-to. I think it shifted the dynamic a bit and opened a door in their understanding of me as a teacher and person.

After that (exploring the concept of ‘digital footprint’), I asked them to Google me. I wanted them to see a real-world example and be willing to answer honest questions about it. They were into it.

They learned that: I’m 38, I was a graphic designer before I started teaching, I’m from Nebraska, there’s the quote, I was engaged, I love LEGO, and I watch Riverdale.

5th grader: “Betty or Veronica?”


Writing recommendations for UW students is hard work, and I procrastinate every time.

Other things I procrastinate on: email, making appointments, phone calls, shopping, paperwork, opening mail, feedback surveys, lesson planning, freelancing.

Metal Feelings T-shirt

SNL: #MeToo Dinner Discussion


This American Life: Three Miles, field trip to a private school

Miyamoto and The Roots Play the Super Mario Bros. Theme

For a fun lesson with the 3rd graders on copyright. I started with examples (a book, sheet music of the Mario theme, and the Star Wars end credits) and asked them to find the ©.

Showing real-world examples and letting kids investigate them (even in a small way) worked great.

Kids (not surprisingly) get bored pretty easily, and it’s obvious when I’ve let them down. It’s helpful incentive for me, actually.

Cedric and Keoni (UW sophomores) visited to observe the 3rd graders for their Design Methods project. It was such a wonderful moment for my two school worlds (UW and CWA) to collide.


LibriVox, public domain audiobooks

Phantom Thread Not Great™

Photos for Class, Creative Commons image search with automatic citations

One of the ways I’ve been celebrating having a little more cash on hand is by replacing all of my underwear with the same black Calvin Klein boxer briefs. It’s a small thing, but it’s been on the list for a few years, and I’m really stoked about it. #treatjoeself

Fresh Air: Lessons From The Oldest Old


Going Fishing, stop-motion animation

Campbell’s Well Yes! soups

Big fan of soup (and crackers).

NWAIS (Northwest Association of Independent Schools) Technology Conference

Hanging out with teachers is always motivating for me.

CWA is an Apple/Google school, and I’m so grateful for that. I have a Microsoft allergy that runs really deep — from all the time I spent growing up working on my own computers and troubleshooting problems for friends and relatives. Never again.


Bossypants Good™

“It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don’t like something it is empirically not good.”

This is the default way that people communicate opinions, actually.

There’s an important difference between saying something is “the best” and “my favorite”.

When I first recognized I was doing this (sometime in my early 30s), it eventually lead to an awareness (now) of how deeply everyone’s unique perspective influences their understanding. It’s likely (and OK) that any one thing will be perceived by any two people in two different ways.

I’m not talking about truth here, just subjective things.

This concept — understanding that opinions are reflective — is the premise of the Sparano Scale.

How Tina Fey sees the rules of improvisation as rules for life: 1. “start from an open-minded place,” 2. “it's your responsibility to contribute,” 3. “be part of the solution,” and 4. “there are no mistakes.”

It’s an example of Pleasure-Point Analysis — reverse engineering why a particular activity/thing resonates, and then applying that understanding in other ways.

“I’m a big believer in intelligent design. And by that, I mean I love IKEA.”

“What I learned about bombing as a writer at SNL is that you can’t be too worried about your permanent record.… You’re… going to write some s••• nuggets.… You can’t worry about it. As long as you know the difference [between gold nuggets and s••• nuggets], you can go back to panning for gold on Monday.”

Michael Jackson’s This Is It


Had a conversation with a Lyft driver who moved to Seattle recently to reset his life, and he’s been really happy with the decision. I said (and he agreed) that this city has unlimited potential. That wherever goal I have, there’s a way to achieve it here.

For instance: learned today that CWA will be a full-time gig starting this fall. Which is huge! The culmination of a professional arc that started when I applied to grad school. Stoked. #thenextphase

There are more big checkmarks I want, but I’m confident they’re here.

My conversations with Lyft/Uber drivers tends to get deep pretty quickly.

“Thank you for tipping the driver. This will probably go towards the dry cleaning bill for the superhero cape.”

I really can’t stand this kind of twee tech industry copywriting.

I think about The Babysitter’s Club essay a lot.


These posts are a lot longer than when I started journaling here (in 2015). Writing more was one of the goals of v4.0, and it’s worked. Thanks to the monoparagraph format (which absorbs long and short posts equally and reduces opportunities for me to edit around line breaks).

Is this format tricky to read? Yes. But reducing writing anxiety is more important to me. And I like the visual metaphor of each day being its own chunk.

This journal has mostly replaced my private journal. Which means I’m sharing more publicly, and that’s great.

compensating wage differential: being willing to accept a lower wage for a more desirable a job (and the opposite).

Right up until starting at CWA, I was considering design industry jobs. But I didn’t imagine enjoying it. Choosing teaching (and its meaningfulness, autonomy, variety, challenge, interestingness, vacation schedule, and free lunch) also means choosing a $50k difference in salary. And I’m feeling good about that.

AoM: The Existential Threat of Big Tech

“there’s hypocrisy that runs through a lot of these companies.… They insist on transparency and sharing in everybody else’s lives, but when it comes to [sharing about themselves], they’re… opaque.”

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Not Great™


Pomelo’s Opposites, picture book

I like the challenge of this: using the same elements to capture two sides of a spectrum. #projectideas

Magic Shop series, storybooks with integrated magic tricks

My office at CWA is in the elementary library, and it’s full of cool stuff.

I think about the criteria for a Good Day quite a bit (meaningful + fun + did a good job). It really seems to correlate.

Technically, I’d call them Great™ days.

For example: days when I spend a lot of time giving software instructions (not meaningful), grading (not fun), or managing the energy of 5th graders (not good at, yet) tend to be rough days.

Persona, landing page builder

The Email Charter

“email takes more time to respond to than it took to generate.”

“[email is] the to-do list that anyone in the world can add an item to.”

NNTR: “No need to respond.”

My main strategy for reducing email is to be vocal about how I feel about email. And that’s been pretty effective, actually! #email


Paddington Good™

Paddington 2 Good™

“sandwich compartments” (coat pockets)

Added the keyboard shortcut for ™ to its Wikipedia entry (keys I press pretty regularly).

I love how powerful it feels to edit Wikipedia, relative to how simple it is to do.

CWA doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. This’d be a cool project for the students some day. #projectideas

Teachers tend to teach that Wikipedia isn’t trustworthy (I’ve heard a few students at CWA say so recently). Which is wrong. And I’d like to course correct this idea somehow.


In the midst of a five-day weekend. Another bonus of teaching at an elementary school is that there are tons of bonus vacation days.

Real Life Magazine: How video games simulate the everyday scorekeeping of social media

“What… would social media look like were it not designed to reward the massive accumulation of approval points above all else?”

Added a favicon to this site.

Icons8, free icon library

Started a new Media Literacy teaching resources folder, where I’ll be keeping things like Old Time Radio Production, Google Street View Birth, Audiobook Recording, @socalitybarbie, and Oh my Gosh, Zilla.

Standing in front of a group and introducing myself still makes me really anxious. Despite standing in front of people professionally (and feeling comfortable doing that)! I don't understand why.


Got to see UW sophomores Yuansi, Keoni, Erfan, and Cedric again, as an interviewee for their Design Methods project. Which is a cool role reversal — in this project, I’m a CWA teacher (instead of a UW teacher).

I love talking about teaching and studenting. They’re conversations about relationships, self-discovery, communication, humility, perspective, truth. We’re talking about the dynamics of just being a person.

Conversations about working in the design industry are not like this for me.

Documents, file manager app

For updating this site mobile-ly (which I did for this post).

Big fan of Readdle apps. (I also use Spark, Calendars, and PDF Expert.)

I’m annoyed by the social situation where, in a group, people alternate telling/performing crazy stories about past experience. Meanwhile… not a question was asked.

Vox: Audiobook Recording

MOD Pizza and Taco Bell in the same day. This is living.


CWA is going well. But I’m not my best, confident teacher self. Not even close (though I don’t expect to be yet).

But when am I? 1. When students are invested in the process of making things. (We spend a lot of time on logistics, classroom management and explaining tools, compared to time on ideas.) 2. When I’m giving feedback, ideally really getting into concepts and decision-making. (Not sure this is possible with the 3rd or 4th graders. Maybe 5th, though… and up.) 3. When we’re deconstructing found examples. (Not bad, but I want more.) 4. When students are reflecting on what they’ve made. (Haven’t done this yet.) 5. When I know each student as a person, instead of kids in a group. (This’ll happen over time.) 6. When I feel comfortable with the classroom itself. (Seven classrooms is tricky.)

I’m a little worried that there’s an inverse correlation between grade level and time spent on logistics (vs. ideas). And that unless ideas > logistics, I may not be satisfied.

These kids are cool, though. I really like them.

This list is based on Color & Comp, where I feel like my best teacher self (and really, like my best myself, period).

“How do you know all of our names already?” (Kate, 5th grader) Aw yeah! Getting this question tells me I did my job.

I work hard on this. It’s important. I don’t think the connections can really start until students know I know their names.

Even if it’s fake, it’s real (EIIFIR): even when something has been faked, 1. some aspect of its creation is still real, and 2. it’s still valuable to have considered its reality.

People tend to be surprised when I tell them I’m a fan of The Bachelor/ette. EIIFIR explains why. The decision to be on the show, the editing, the design of the show itself — all real, interesting decisions.

Brexit Stamps


I submitted this for Annabelle’s Distinguished Teaching nomination: “She’s made me feel acknowledged and appreciated, in small ways — as a student and now as a teacher. After my thesis presentation, she texted to pass along the compliments she’d overhead from the other faculty. She invited me to a faculty lunch, despite teaching significantly fewer classes than anyone else in the room. In the hallway, she asks how things are going, and she really wants to know. She sends emails after reading my teaching evals, just to say ‘nice work!’. She responds to emails! She hasn’t (not once) turned down a request to chat — about typography or what I might do with my life.”

Nintendo Labo

Jimmy Kimmel Doesn’t Want to Cry

“My wife always says, ‘It’s beautiful.’ And yet, I still wish I could keep it together. I see others keeping it together, and it makes me wonder if I’m emotionally unstable.”


I have lunch recess duty on Tuesdays now (today was the first). What a cool job.

Several of the 5th graders call me “Mr. Spara-n-n-no Pota-t-t-to” every time I see them.

This makes at least as much sense as what I was doing in 5th grade (drawing cartoons of our D.A.R.E. officer disco dancing, for instance).

The CWA students have almost no trouble pronouncing my name. Probably because they've never seen (or heard of) The Sopranos.

It’d be nice if this era was over.

Forest, Pomodoro app + SleepTown, sleep schedule app

Larry Bird Explains Pick and Roll


Trying a new morning routine — 25 minutes each of reading, journaling, and emailing. And then, extra time goes to Feedbinning.

If I don’t schedule email time, it doesn’t happen. Actually reading and replying to email is (I suspect) a strategy for loathing it less. #email

School of Life: Cards for Perspective, less social sharing

Maybe the simplest option for people who want to setup a journal site like this.

OK, finally have all 116 CWA students’ names memorized. Ooof!

ScreenPrism: Black Mirror, Toxic Fanboy

Bystander Intervention Training


How to Write a Reflective Journal + Prompts

“Your journal… is a dialogue that you are having with yourself. You are forcing your brain to think critically about something and to produce written words accordingly.”

“Reflective journaling is first about participating and observing”

I have this page in the back of my mind all day. Not the writing of it, necessarily, just a baseline awareness of how I’m feeling and why that might be.

These prompts would be great interview questions, too. Also, hadn’t considered until this moment that journaling is a kind of interview of yourself.

The goals of journaling are in line with the goals of meditation: to cultivate awareness… so we can better understand both the mind and the world around us.

I’m getting a lot of use out of sending emails later. I think it’s important not to send email during nights and weekends (even if I’m still writing email then). #email

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

“My whole career has been trying to get closer… to the real gritty core [of it]…. I kept thinking: this isn’t it, this isn’t it, this isn’t it… This thing [though], anyone who knows me who watches this says, ‘Now that’s just raw you.’”

I’m still tweaking the description of the Sparano Scale™, seven years in.


Just realizing that the UW Design sophomores were born circa the year I graduated from high school (1998). That’s insane.


Logan Paul’s ‘Suicide Forest’ Video Is Where YouTube Culture Has Always Been Headed

“Most people wouldn’t have posted [this video]. But most people… aren’t conditioned to view their experiences — or the experiences of others — through the lens of minutes watched, likes recorded, or subscribers added.”

Select All, tech news

Vox: Earworm, music video essays

The 80s Drum Sound

Why We Really Really Really Like Repetition In Music

“repetition in music… feels intentional to our brains” #design

SongSim, visualizations of repetition

The Post Good™

Alison Brie, forever


When students don’t seem to be especially excited about whatever we’re doing or the way I'm delivering it, it gets into my head. (Today was a GarageBand/podcast intro with the 4th graders.)

As a teacher, students’ enthusiasm is a measurement of success for me. But is it realistic to expect that they'll always be clearly having fun? Don't know.

I recognized when I started teaching (way back) that I didn't like teaching software. And that's still true. But for CWA especially, I’ll need to figure out how to make sure that everyone (including me) isn't totally bored by it.

Reading Twitter in Feedbin

I love Feedbin so much.

Not into Twitter. But it’s helpful for keeping up with Omaha friends.

Bought Monodraw and used it to build my Letter of Intent for CWA.

Starting to think about how I can integrate design into CWA curriculum. The steps of the design process that I’m most interested in now (especially when teaching it) are feedback and reflection — both ways of learning. #LtD


LEGO Microscale Animals: Forest Critters + African Safari + Elk & Ibex + Buffalo + Mastadon


My teaching MO tends to be transparency and flexibility. But, it’s becoming clear that that’s not an effective way to manage elementary schoolers. Kids seem to respond to hierarchy and structure. And I’m a little worried that I may not feel comfortable teaching that way.

Not that I’m awful at classroom management, but I have a lot to learn. I’m excited to get into the weeds and really focus on learning to teach better. And fortunately, I’m on a team of teachers now who are really good at it.

Example: I’m recognizing that when students are working towards a specific goal, the day is more productive and students seem more invested. (Today, with the 5th graders: “Record at least three sound effects.”)

I think this works because, with a goal in mind, they’re designing — they’re invested in the process and their decisions hold weight. (Am I using my time well? Is this collaborating or just talking?) #design

The 5th graders mentioned that they’ve started a Google Doc for messaging each other after school (because some of them don't have access to dedicated messaging/social apps, but they all have Google Docs). Smart!

LEGO research studies: LEGO Products Have Become More Complex + The Emotional Expressions of LEGO Minifigure Faces

“The most widely used definition of universal facial expression [for people, not just LEGO] are: disgust, sadness, happiness, fear, anger, surprise.”

Shawn O’Donnell's Irish Pub


Communicating digitally is tricky exactly because it’s digital — it’s either on or off. If we aren’t SUPER CLEAR!!!!!! (on), we risk miscommunicating (off). Which pushes responses to extremes, too. 😂 😂 😂

Clicks and likes are also digitization — making our interactions measurable (interaction = on / no interaction = off). Which encourages more extremes (to make sure that switch gets flipped).

All of this simplifies the representations of our thoughts and feelings online to the point where they can’t possibly capture the nuances of what we’re actually thinking and feeling.

This is why, I think, what Facebook sets out to do (“bring the world closer together) is so different from what it’s actually doing. #digitalanxiety


I, Tonya Not Great™

This American Life: How to Talk to Kids

I try to talk to kids like adults: asking specific (instead of generic, small-talky) questions and really listening. I try to avoid the performative or condescending comments that adults usually use, which is artificial and creates distance.

Don’t Stop The Presses!, local newspapers and democracy

Eiko Ojala, illustrator


Been thinking about why freelance is so frustrating for me. 1. It feels like there's an assumption that freelancing = hustling. That working nights, weekends, and on short deadlines is a welcome part of the job. (It’s not, I hate it). And 2. since I’m usually the only person who’s worked on a given project in the past (and the deadline is usually so soon), it’s rarely even feasible for anyone but me to do it.

Should I have set different expectations? Yes, totally (this is on me). But should clients be making these requests in the first place? No, don’t think so.

Jacob Elias: Things I’ve Learned


We want to believe that technology improves our lives, that progress is linear, and that innovation can solve problems. Too often, technology addresses a problem but creates new, unanticipated, unique problems in its wake. #digitalanxiety

Austin Kleon: Journals of Famous People

journalize: to add something to a journal.

Mitch Hedberg’s Notebooks

“Write down anything [worthwhile] that comes into your head. Don’t be lazy.”

“I think of something funny, then I go get a pen and write it down. Or if the pen is too far away, I try to convince myself that what I thought of isn’t that funny.”

I have an essentially constant anxiety about whether or not I’ll want to remember the thought I’m thinking right now. Could be something for this page, or ideas for class, or just a general thing to do later.

Drafts (and originally Captio) has been really helpful in keeping this anxiety in check. I like working digitally and being able to organize and process these things.

If I can’t capture ideas, I can get distracted by trying to remember them. This is why I sit in the back row at the movies (so I can use my phone). Listening to podcasts on the Tacoma commute has been tricky because I don’t have a way to capture ideas and drive. And when I’m reading, I often have to stop because my mind fills up with things I want to write.


Teaching 8–10-year-olds is a new thing for me, and I don’t quite know what I’m doing. Some things are just like teaching 19-year-olds (setting clear expectations and giving clear instructions, designing worthwhile lessons, asking good questions). I can do those things, and that’s how I got the job. But overall, it’s been a pretty different experience, and I’m still warming up.

The hardest things are: 1. Managing the class dynamic (the 3rd graders can get frustrated and distracted easily, the 4th graders are super stoked, the 5th graders are a complex range of absolutely delightful to straight-up mean). 2. Teaching in seven different classrooms, with seven different sets of norms and vibes — none of which I get to set. And 3. Teaching in an elementary school and on a team of teachers (both firsts for me).

The capacity to be intentionally, flagrantly cruel and disrespectful is one of the things that seems to differentiate 4th and 5th graders. Not just these students — this is a thing that starts when we go through puberty.

I’m not complaining — at all. This is a very cool, potentially very meaningful job. And I think I’ll be really good at it some day.

But I don’t feel good at it right now. And no one at CWA has seen the kind of teacher I can be. I’m making mistakes, and it can be embarrassing. But I’ll continue to learn, standing in front of class and figuring it out. #LtD

FaBiOX LEGO Minifig Cases

My normally 1-hour commute to Tacoma was 2 ½ hours (at 6:00 in the morning). Yow.


This is interesting: of the 21 seasons of The Bachelor, only 2 of the couples are still together (9.5%). But of the 13 seasons of The Bachelorette, 6 of the couples are still together (46%).


Title Black Blast Heavy Bag Gloves #treatjoeself

Generation Sell

“Our culture hero is not the artist or reformer, not the saint or scientist, but the entrepreneur.… The characteristic art form of our age may be the business plan.”

“Today’s polite, pleasant personality is, above all, a commercial personality. It is the salesman’s smile and hearty handshake”

Google Timer + Stopwatch

On the Media: Why Buddhism is True

pop nihilism: “using [not believing] in anything as a smokescreen for completely selfish activity.”

The Ringer: ICYMI NBA summaries

Planet Money: The M&M Anomaly

The CWA students can be surprisingly hilarious. Today, one of the fifth graders (Zane) did a “What’s in the box?!” impression of Brad Pitt from Se7en that I didn’t see coming.

Several times over the last few weeks, students (at UW and CWA) have asked me why I buzzed my head (after finding photos of me online).

I don’t mind that they ask or answering their questions. But I’m annoyed by how little control we have over what the Internet says about us.

I wonder how long it’ll be until the CWA kids find this site.


The Tech Insiders Who Fear a Smartphone Dystopia

“All of which has left Brichter, who has put his design work on the backburner while he focuses on building a house…, questioning his legacy.”

That's a convenient situation to be in.

One reason that the tech industry bugs me is that (generally) the paychecks are disproportionate to the ultimate value of the work.

“This is a larger discussion for society. Is it OK to shut off my phone when I leave work? Is it OK if I don’t get right back to you? Is it OK that I’m not ‘liking’ everything that goes through my Instagram screen?”

“It is not inherently evil to bring people back to your product. It’s capitalism.”

“The problem is that there is nothing the companies can do to address the harm unless they abandon their current advertising models.”

Time Well Spent, “digital attention crisis” advocacy group

Carnage Not Great™

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