Journal July 2018


Attending a week-long workshop on teaching’s middle school curriculum.

  • I’m planning to run middle school and elementary coding clubs at CWA this year. Which I’m legitimately looking forward to.

  • Teaching code will be a chance to re-consider what might’ve been. I took a C++ elective as an undergrad, and I did well enough (I had the highest grade) that the TAs suggested I switch majors. My heart was set on graphic design, so I didn’t seriously consider the idea at the time. But over the years, it’s a choice I’ve wondered about — a CS career would’ve circumvented two of my biggest disappointments with graphic design: 1. CS pays significantly more, and 2. success is objectively measurable.

  • I’m confident I would’ve ended up teaching anyway, and still pursuing graphic design in some way. Who knows if I would’ve enjoyed CS as much as I originally did graphic design. But it’s interesting to think about how the last 14 years might’ve changed based on that one choice.

  • I’m also just so happy with the fact that I’m at a workshop for teachers, just learning about teaching. This is my life now!

Open offices result in less collaboration among employees

  • “The authors theorized that the lack of physical boundaries in the open office made constructing social barriers necessary.”

  • I mostly avoid co-working because it’s so awkward to navigate those artificial social barriers.


Francesca Buchko, illustrator

Big Good™


Geoffroy de Crécy: A Drop Odyssey animation 1, 2, 3, 4

Interview with Raffi

  • “many children’s entertainers and writers (Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Tove Jansson, Beatrix Potter) weren’t parents.… ‘There’s a Rubicon you cross when you become a parent. Your emotional viewpoint shifts, and you start identifying with the parents in stories, rather than with the children,’ so those without children more naturally write to or from the child’s point of view.”

  • “know who you are and live that way.… that’s the greatest gift we can give, not only to ourselves but to each other, because you want to know that [I’m] real. And I want the same from you. I don’t want a performance from you”

Crash Course Media Literacy: Online Advertising

LIFX, hubless smart bulbs + Turn Touch, wooden smart remote #treatjoeself

  • Upgrading to a setup with a physical button. Because (as ridiculous as this feels to say) it’s a lot of work to use an app as a light switch.

  • A lot of apps feel like this. The part of the ‘experience’ where you have to 1. pick up the phone, 2. turn the screen on, 3. press home to open, 4. swipe to find the app, 5. open the app, and then 6. tap to do the thing you wanted to do in the first place — those steps are left out of the sales pitch.

The Witch Not Great™

56 Up Good™

  • “the most important thing is to feel, by and large, you haven’t compromised too much [in the life you wanted for yourself]” — Paul

  • “I find it hard to believe that I was ever like that, but there’s the evidence.” — Neil

  • “[The Up series is about] how a person, any person, how they change.… it’s not an absolute accurate picture of me, but it’s a picture of somebody, and that’s the value of it.” — Nick


Been thinking a lot this week about my teaching last summer being interpreted as “passive aggressive”. I’m not surprised by it. (I knew at the time I was miffed, so the only news here is that my feelings were apparent to the students). Either way, I’ve been wondering how I allowed that to happen. And I think this is it: if a college student is late, texting in class, not participating, not applying themselves — I see those intuitively, reflexively as choices (or at least willful negligence).

  • Despite how frustrating the CWA kids can be, I haven’t felt mad at them — I have different expectations of undergrads and elementary schoolers. I think college students understand their options, while I think kids are in the middle of learning what the options even are. Whether or not that’s fair, I don’t know.

  • Additionally, UW Design students raised my expectations of what undergrads (and especially UW students) are capable of — personally and academically.

  • Bigger picture, I’m losing patience with adults who do inconsiderate, oblivious, or self-centered things. But gaining patience for kids who do the same things. (I don’t want to be less tolerant of anyone, but it’s happening.) Undergrads aren’t really kids, but they aren’t really adults either. I should keep that in mind.

Creep 2 Good™

Atlas Obscura, cool, hidden, and unusual things in cities around the world


Three Identical Strangers Good™

Manually pixelated food


WTF: Dave Itzkoff & Robin Williams

Creep Not Great™


Finally remembered to wear my Everything is a Remix t-shirt on the day in class when I show Everything is a Remix.

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with that he vowed to make it.” — J.M. Barrie

Looking through the teaching stacks at the UW library, which there are rows and rows of, and which I could spend a lot of time getting lost in. I’m so much more naturally interested in teaching — as a thing I can continue to learn about and get better at — than I ever was in graphic design. #teaching


Trend News, fake news story generator

  • This’d be a useful exercise in showing students (through writing and sharing their own ‘stories’) how easy it is to publish anything on the internet. #lesson

Introducing the SMARTPHONE™

  • Another lesson idea: students could create advertisements for AND against the same thing. #lesson

Bought more Chris McVeigh LEGO sets: Modular Arcade Starter Bundle, Modular Arcade Pinball (Lime), Emperor Bonsai: Spring Maple, Bonsai Garden #treatjoeself

Disobedience Not Great™

  • “choice… is a privilege and a burden.”

Finally reading evals from my UW classes last year. Some highlights:

  • “Joe’s effort & care for all of us… makes me want to work hard.” + “[Joe] is very patient and accessible. Also because he is very passionate about the teaching, as a student, I get more passionate too.” + “Class was fun every day!… I was excited to come to class” — Color & Comp

  • It’s so important to me that students enjoy being in class.

  • “The grading often felt very subjective and was based upon if Joe liked it or not. That got a bit frustrating.” — Color & Comp

  • In my UW classes, I’ve tried to figure out how to make the criteria for success as objective as possible — despite how subjective VCD is as a discipline. I ask students to reflect on their decisions for each project, in writing, and I/we read those for grading. I think it’s a pretty effective strategy for objectifying. I’m grading students on their decision-making — not on my subjective response to the visuals. I can’t think of any other VCD class that I took as a student, or that I helped teach as a TA, that went that far.

  • “A less passive-aggressive teaching style would help.” — Intro. to VCD

  • I was frustrated by this group, but I’m disappointed to know that I let that show (and probably did in 308, too). That’s not OK. I need to make sure I keep this in check. Definitely something I can work on.

  • “Whole class sessions spent outlining the Rules of Design… didn’t feel particularly valuable.” — Intro. to VCD (summer)

  • This was a media literacy structure I wanted to try (where together, we’d reverse-engineer VCD ‘rules’ based on looking at things students found, liked, and brought into class). I agree that it felt pretty tedious at times. But I still think it’s an effective way to learn, and I’d like to try again. #medialiteracy

  • “Joe is highly dedicated to the course. His effort to make this class a success is obvious. He involves everyone in the teaching process.… He adapts content to students’ needs as the course moves forward.” + “The [students] had a lot of respect for both the teacher and the class itself.” — Intro. to Applied Design

  • This group, I really enjoyed. It’s interesting to have two very different experiences (and student reactions to me) in the same quarter (summer). These classes were even on the same day.

  • Why did I wait so long to read these? 1. Hearing criticism I can’t respond to is tough, especially since I try to be approachable and receptive to feedback during the quarter. 2. More significantly, though, it’s because I hope to have some kind of impact on students, and it’s hard to finally discover whether or not that happened. Overall, the evals are really positive. But I don’t think they show the kind of impact I hope for. Mainly, I’m talking about Color & Comp, where students rarely mentioned the aspects I thought were the most meaningful: learning to design towards goals, the all-class reflections, and the overall focus on the process, personally and professionally.

  • Doubly-tough because Color & Comp was, I think, me at the top of my game. I think I maximized my capacity for teaching that class. And it’s hard to know that it still wasn’t enough for some students.

  • Generally, I don’t think my classes mean as much to students as they do to me. Which is a little strange for me, and one of the hardest aspects of teaching. Knowing that some/most students aren’t particularly affected by the experience. #teaching

  • That said, some students are! And it means a lot.


Science Museum UK: Mobile Phone Collection

  • All the phones I’ve owned: Motorola StarTAC, Kyocera QCP-2035, Motrola SLVR, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, and iPhone 8.

  • I’ve considered a dumbphone so seriously, so many times. But I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it’d be impractical to downgrade. Something like the Light Phone 2 is a start, but it’s missing apps I use every day.

  • Adding to the reasons I decided to get an iPhone 8: without a smartphone, I wouldn’t be able to use 8. Pebble or 9. MoviePass.

  • Smartphones are no longer a just convenient way of doing some things — sometimes, they’re the only way. These are two examples, Lyft is another one.

Social Life of Small Urban Spaces Great™

  • We watched clips of this in grad school, and I’ve been meaning to watch the rest. I could watch this kind of thing infinitely. What a gem.

  • Also another hugely, positively memorable grad school moment that I ironically owe to Tad.

  • “The #1 activity is people looking at other people.”

  • A Day in The Life of The North Front Ledge at Seagram’s visualization

  • “In many ways the odd people [in a public space] do a service for the rest of us: they reassure us of our own normality.”

The only place to sit in my apartment is an IKEA Poäng chair, and it’s really uncomfortable (thanks to the angle its designed at). I hate sitting in it. Definitely dropping this off at Goodwill on my way to Tacoma. #GMTFOH

Pangram Pangram Foundary, typefaces

Launchbar: Menubar Search, quick access to any app’s menu commands

Kirby Ferguson: Eyes Wide Open

  • “You become a source for other people as soon as you post anything.… we are responsible for what we share.”

  • “Our right to privacy exists in a balance with our role as media producers.”

  • “Is it better to know you’re being watched than to be blissfully ignorant? Is it better to get famous online than to be invisible?”

  • “Most things that we do as humans are in order to get a sense that we matter. And there’s hardly a more intoxicating sense that you matter than having changed someone’s perception of the world even a little bit.” — Maria Popova #teaching

  • “We call it the Internet… this machine, but it’s just these nodes of humans that connect.” — Maria Popova

  • This is media, right now. This page! “I shared thoughts, and facts, and opinions with you.… [This] was intended to make you think and feel a certain way.… Did you learn anything? Do know more now? Do you trust me?”

Image2icon, convert images to icon files

Unfriended Good™


Finished a major step of this summer’s Digital Cleanup: organizing files from all of my UW classes (labeling/organizing saved student projects, plus my Design and Graphic Design inspiration folders). These files have been sitting on my Desktop for two years, and holy crap it feels great to be done! This stuff weighs on me. #digitalcleanup

The Challenges of Creating Sustainable LEGO Bricks

  • “the beautiful rattle of LEGO bricks being shaken in a box… changes when different materials are used. Will consumers notice, and will they care?”

PhotoBulk, batch image processor

A Ghost Story Good™

The Last Days of Disco Not Great™


itty bitty, tiny website builder — the site’s code is contained completely in the URL/QR itself (which means it does’t need to be hosted).

lazysizes.js, image lazy-loader

  • Added this here, since I’m using more images now.

Ant-Man and the Wasp Not Great™

  • I’m aiming to see 31 movies in July, 10 with MoviePass. (July is my most-free month, since CWA summer break ends August 21st).

Below the Surface, everyday objects found in Amsterdam’s River Amstel

Austin Kleon: You Don’t Have to Live in Public

  • “[Media channels] are tools, not requirements. Don’t let them make you miserable. Tune them until they bring you pleasure.”

  • This is what Feedbin does for me. Because of the way RSS works (and thanks to Feedbin’s filters) I can tune-in to, exactly, the channels of the Internet that I learn from and that inspire me. And tune-out the rest.

Absentia Not Great™

You Made It Weird: Mike Birbiglia

  • “Laughing, whether we like it or not, denotes agreement. It’s… physical agreement.”

  • “[Nice guys] need sex too.”

  • “The same thing that makes us good at our jobs [comedy] also makes us… strange people. Emotional to a fault.” #teaching

  • “‘Internet hate’ is not the same as hate.… It’s like interacting with someone’s id.… it’s not even interacting with a person.”


I’m continuing to treat texts like emails — where I won’t respond (sometimes for a few days) to messages that aren’t urgent.

  • It feels like a problematic thing to be doing. I imagine/know that people on the other side aren’t happy about it, or at least, are wondering if something’s up. And I recognize that it’s not helping maintain those friendships.

  • Why am I doing it, then? It has very little to do with the person on the other side. It’s just recently reached a tipping where I’m especially aware of: 1. how impersonal it is (like all kinds of digital communication), and 2. how time-consuming it is for me (like all kinds of writing). It just feels a little silly.

  • Generally, this is part of a larger trend, where I’m more aware of how everything I do (even the small things) consume time. I’m starting to feel the weight of life being shorter than I expected it to be, and I’m trying to avoid wasting time.

The Work Behind The Work, behind the scenes of creative projects

In 265, did a “Good/Bad” deconstruction exercise: on campus, find two ‘good’ and two ‘bad’ posters. The goal is to connect that the graphic design we intuitively judge as good/bad is actually a collection of good/bad choices. And in each case, students have no trouble identifying which of the strategies we’re learning in class the designers have/haven’t used.

  • It works great for reinforcing concepts from class. Plus, everyone loves to make fun of ‘bad’ graphic design. And this exercise redirects that energy (which is fun, but a little mean-spirited) towards choices rather than at a person.
Examples of ‘bad’ poster design from 265.


I don’t give a shit about fireworks.

Leave No Trace Good™


Reviewed my books-to-read list and reduced it from 950+ to 150+ books. #digitalcleanup

  • This list really makes me think (as odd as it feels to type this) about how much time I have left. Same for my IMDb and Instapaper queues. I see these as life-long goals.

  • My book list has been accumulating for probably 20 years. And it’s interesting to see how much my perspective has changed since the start. I deleted most fiction, classics, and anything that isn’t likely to be personally, culturally, or intellectually worthwhile. (I deleted a lot of $1.99/99¢ Kindle books I bought because they looked interesting-enough at the time — which seems silly now.)

  • I’ve always wanted to become ‘a reader’ — and it still feels like one of the best things I can do with my time. I’m probably reading more now than ever, but it’s mostly web/Instapaper articles. I read slowly, and books have always been difficult for me to stick to. So choosing to keeping a book on the list means it has to be worth the weeks I’ll be investing in it. Which feels like a lot of life to devote to any one thing. I’m losing interest in TV shows for the same reason.

Visualping, notifications for website changes

First time boxing since March 10th. I’ve lost a lot of fitness, and I’m in pretty gross shape.


YouTube’s Top Creators Are Burning Out And Breaking Down

  • Watching YouTuber videos, it’s easy to forget how much work is involved in making the video itself. The videos seem effortless, but there’s no way it’s not a ton of behind-the-scenes work — particularly editing.

  • It’s also worth asking questions like: 1. Wait, who or what is holding the camera?, 2. How much MORE video did you capture to get enough usable footage for this upload?, 3. How often do you do re-takes?, 4. Does the camera affect how you think about the situation you’re in and what you say?, 5. Does it affect other people in your video in the same way?

Firefox: Markdown Link

Key & Peele: Substitute Teacher (White People Names)

Tag Not Great™


Rebble, replacement Pebble services (which were officially discontinued yesterday) — built by Pebble fans.

  • Pebble is one of the very few pieces of technology I own that doesn’t feel like a burden. It does what it promises without the normal tech tradeoffs (frustration, maintenance). I love exactly what it is, and there’s nothing else quite like it.

  • Pebble: Downloading PBW files

  • Great™ Pebble watchfaces/apps

  • I’d like to design my own Pebble watchface at some point. #project

How the ‘Star Wars Customizable Card Game’ lives on through its fan community

  • “[I love it] when a design gets out in the world and then evolves into something on its own and keeps going”

Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

  • “you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.… because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”

  • “You've got to find [work] you love.… Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

  • “have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

Adam Savage Tours the Jim Henson Exhibition

Deadpool 2 Good™

How do you know? June 2018


Countdown to leaving the tiny apartment: 1 month! Countdown to the new apartment: 18 weeks. #GMTFOH

How well or how poorly we listen often reflects the value we place on the messenger

How All Tech Platforms Are Now Pawns In The Culture War, wacky image generator

The Rider Good™

  • I saw 8 movies with MoviePass this month. For $10!

Biokleen, plant-based cleaners + Twist, plant-based sponges

ScreenPrism: Mad Men, The New Girl Peggy Olson

The Standups: Aparna Nancherla

  • “anxiety is finally on message.… if you’re an anxious person, this is what we trained for. This is our Olympics. All those nights awake: it’s showtime! All the scenarios at once.”

29 API + Display listening data on a website

  • On my About page, the “listening to…” now updates automatically, based on whatever album I’ve played most in the last 7 days.

  • I’ve been trying to figure this out for years, and I now know enough about Javascript to be able to customize the code.

Lucy in Disguise: Unknown Frequency Good™

  • When I get the drums back in action, my plan is to pair it with some kind of MIDI controller and jam on tracks that might sound something like Nova.

Fonty, live-swap fonts on any site

Lessons from the Screenplay: Jurassic Park, Using Theme to Craft Character

  • “the theme of Jurassic Park: …is everything we call ‘progress’ actually progress?”

  • “we live in a society in which technology is continuously presented as wonderful.… Isn’t it fabulous that we all have computers? Well, yes and no” — Michael Crichton

Nerdwriter: Artifice and Authenticity in Nathan For You

Vox by Design: How One Typeface (Trajan) Took Over Movie Posters

How ‘Type Beats’ Have Changed Hip-Hop Production

Genius: Deconstructed + Framework, song production and music video making-ofs

Table Tennis: Present vs. Future poster

  • Although: “the art print shop emerged from his desire to present design that could be part of peoples’ lives, not as communication nor as a tool, but as a pleasant and meaningful visual intervention”

  • A classic instance of considering ‘design’ a standalone thing, which it isn’t. These posters are design(ed)-to-be “pleasant and meaningful visuals” — they aren’t design itself. I get what he means, but the distinction is important.

  • Why am I collecting these examples and hitting this so hard? Because it pisses me off. Because people who don’t already call themselves designers are confused about what design is — thanks to graphic designers and digital product designers. They’re co-opting a word that doesn’t belong exclusively to them — siphoning its gravity and diluting it in the process. #ofwhat?

LeBron’s Decision Cave: a place to retreat to when making important decisions.


In 265, tried a new exercise where, before introducing any typography at all, I asked students to choose a poster in the UW Design hallway and deconstruct it: 1. “How do you know what order to read the text in?”, 2. “How do you know which text elements are more important?”, 3. “How do you know which ideas are connected?” It worked (of course), and it surfaced all kinds of typographic principles.

  • I love asking questions that start with “How do you know …?” They expose assumptions and hidden mechanisms, and they’re fun for students to think about. #medialiteracy

  • I followed-up the exercise with the contrast/hierarchy/grid slide presentation I was going to give anyway. But now, the slides reinforced what students had already started discovering, rather than just pulling back the curtain.

  • Later, I also asked students to import the poster image into Illustrator and identify the designer’s grid system (by actually drawing lines on top of their photo). And then we discussed those images as a class — which then became my grid presentation.

  • I’m getting better at figuring out how to teach this way — designing lessons where students discover central ideas through an activity/investigation. Where they are the ones pulling back the curtain.

In Conversation: Conan O’Brien

  • “All I’ve ever known is that if someone doesn’t like what I do, I can’t help them.”

How to Stop Procrastinating Quiz + Flowchart + Details

  • I procrastinate on prepping for class most of the time (I did today). I think the reason is “lack of expectancy” (feeling like the goal isn’t achievable). I can fill up whatever time I allow for preparation… and still rarely feel ‘finished’. So procrastinating reduces the time I spend on it.

  • The actions (designs) I’d like to try are: 1. “mental contrasting” (visualize and compare how I feel now with how I’ll feel when I’m finished), 2. “success spiraling” (recognize small steps as victories), 3. “accepting” (confront procrastination by logging the distractions).

LEGO Autobiographical Builds series

Sitting in a coffee shop, eavesdropping on a conversation between a bride and a wedding-planner. It all seems pretty absurd to me.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado Not Great™

One of my favorite things about teaching is that I get to share students’ work in previous classes to later students. There’s a continuous chain of inspiration from class to class, and students get to learn from each other, building off earlier students’ successes — without really even knowing that’s happening.

Resumes I showed as inspiration in 265. These are from UW Design sophomores in 2015, who were just learning typography skills themselves, and who eventually graduated in 2017.


Working theory: Great™ teachers prioritize students over themselves. Lesser teachers make teaching a self-centered activity — they: 1. get off on the authority, 2. like hearing themselves talk, and/or 3. are hamstrung by their own anxiety and self-consciousness. Great™ teachers make students feel uniquely known and valued, and they’re willing to sacrifice their own ego in the process. #teaching

  • Not that I’m totally there (I’ve done all of the self-centered teaching things). But I’m working on it.

  • A bonus of (working on) being less selfish is that it’s not intuitive for me, and I’m growing by struggling against it. I’m constantly considering the impact of my decisions, trying to be fair, trying to communicate in a way that works for students, trying to be kind at all times. I’m changing a lot in the process, and it feels really healthy.

  • I had this thought this week (as a student) at a makerspace workshop at Evergreen, led by a woman (Lindsey) who was condescending, self-involved, and awkward. Although she’s objectively good at her job, and the workshop was fine, it felt like it was about her, and I wonder how her students feel in her classes.

  • I also wonder how many other people recognize (let alone get preoccupied with) things like this. It really bugged me.

CWA will be getting a deluxe makerspace within the next year, but I have no interest in teaching in it. The supply management would make me anxious, and the environmental cost (tape, glue, plastic, metal, crafty trinkets generally) would make me feel bad. I like that my classroom ‘materials’ are mostly intangible (being digital).

  • I’m not sold on makerspaces for kids. Seems like a lot of investment for an incremental step forward, given what students can actually make at their age. It’s cool, for sure, but how valuable is it, really?

Pop Culture Detective: Abduction As Romance

RoboKiller, spam call/text blocker

  • I’ve started getting lots of spam calls and texts, and I’m gladly paying this app to stop them. But this means that, at some point in the future (when spam calls are fully automated, and we all have blockers setup to interact with them), we’ll just be paying robots to call each other?

  • It’s frustrating that this is the way of the world: the noise on a channel increases until the only option is to turn it off (telemarketers, notifications, car alarms, people asking for stuff on the street).


Hearts Beat Loud Good™

  • “You cracked the hook”: figuring it out.

ClipNotes, audio recording app with bookmarks

Neo Smartpen, paper-to-digital pen


One of life’s cruelest ironies is that shithead people still get to be successful (professionally, at least). I’m thinking of three specific shitheads writing this, people I’ve worked with at some point in the past. Tad, Abagail, and D.G., whose name I’m avoiding writing because I imagine he’d find this page.

  • This isn’t jealousy or insecurity. I’m not interested in their jobs, and I’m feeling great about most things in my life. Just wondering why other people tolerate and reward shitheads. And I’m not sure why I care about this.


Looking for Life on a Flat Earth: How a theory becomes truth

Added my Goals page. Which has, itself, been a goal for awhile.

  • It’s not possible for me to think about design without thinking about goals, and this page feels like an essential yang to Notes on design’s yin.

  • It’s interesting that, with several pages on this site, I’ve created a thing that I could, very possibly, still be actively updating decades from now. That’s the plan, at least.

There’s a lot I want to accomplish before August 20th (when CWA starts). #summerofjoe

CSS columns + column-span + break-inside

  • Thanks to Jacob, I simplified the code for columns on this site.

Saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor? again. I recorded the audio so I could capture everything I wanted to remember. (Added notes below.)


L.M. Sacasas: Technology and Action

  • “social media… is where most of us turn to be seen and to make our mark, as it were. But we find that the technological intermediary that constitutes this space of our appearing works against us. The scale is all wrong. Rather than returning to us the gift of integrity, it amplifies our self-consciousness. It disassociates word and deed. It discourages responsibility. It tempts us to mistake performative gestures for action.”

  • This is something I’ve been thinking about: it seems that the main problem with digital anything is (literally) right in front of us: the interface. There’s a thing between us and our actions. We aren’t actually doing the thing — we aren’t directly communicating, we aren’t directly effecting change. We’re looking through a window, manipulating a representation of the thing.

  • The way we think of screens (that the content is inside the box) is backwards — WE are inside the box. Whoa. #digitalanxiety

  • In my life, this seems especially troublesome and weird for communicating. Whenever there’s an interface between people, there’s distance and diluted intimacy.

  • I also worry about VR and AR. The intent is realness (‘R’ = reality), but with both, there’s even more interface in the way. And they’ll likely just water down our sense of reality even further.

  • More interface is not the way.

Wikipedia: List of Common Misconceptions

  • It’d be fun to use this list or Snopes and Tropes for a middle school media literacy project. Each student could design two things: something that reinforces a myth/trope and then something that actively works against it. #lesson

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Not Great™

  • Bryce Dalls Howard, forever

Set It Up Good™

  • Maybe what makes romcoms different from other genres is that they’re written towards what the writer wants to have-experienced, rather than from lived experience.

  • I’m irritated by how directly connected the word ‘design’ has become to business/startups/management. How did this happen?

  • Also, even in the context of this page, there isn’t industry agreement on what the word means (it’s also used interchangeably for graphic design, and separately, UX). So dumb. #design

waneella: Scooter and Diner: Day + Night

  • I’d like to hang a screen on the wall in my apartment that just shows looping scenes like this, a window into a peaceful pixel land.

Imagine, visual problem-solving card game

As long as I’ve got a movie to look forward to, everything is going to be fine.


I’m way behind on journaling, despite wanting not to. I need to make time to do this daily: either first-thing in the morning or the last thing at night. Every day.

Nine Inch Nails: Bad Witch Not Great™

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Great™

  • Watching the show as a kid, my favorite parts were the tiny models of the neighborhood, Make-Believe, and the trolley.

  • “an adult who cares”

  • It’s Mister Rogers’ earnestness that makes him so endearing, so important, and so different from almost everyone else.

  • “You have passed the test, you may come in.”

  • This is one of my major take-aways from teaching at CWA: despite what the adults in the room try to orchestrate, it’s the kids who have the power.

  • “what we see and hear on the screen is part of who we become.”

  • “Anything can happen in Make-Believe. But Make-Believe is not real. There was a distinction. Fred never appears in Make-Believe. Actors did, puppets did.”

  • Just noticing that in communicating without bullshit, and in drawing lines between real and make-believe, Mister Rogers also taught media literacy. He was clear that this was a TV show. At the end of the first series, he opened a cabinet to show tapes of all the previous episodes. Pretty cool. #medialiteracy

  • Mister Rogers used TV to counteract TV itself (and American pop culture generally). I feel motivated in the same way. It feels important to teach about design, technology, and media because I want to counteract the way those things are commonly abused. I want to: 1. help kids see the world the way it is (rather than way it’s designed and mediated to seem), and 2. empower them with tools to be proactive and influence the direction of their lives (rather than surrendering to whatever path it feels has been set out for them). #teaching

  • “He is doing the one thing in the world he wishes to do.”

  • In the last four months, I’ve seen documentaries/exhibits about three guys I deeply respect: Mister Rogers, Garry Shandling, and Jim Henson. It’s startling to notice how much of their identity and impact is embedded in their jobs. Which feels like where my life is headed, and which doesn’t seem as problematic to me now as it did after grad school.

  • “Our striving to understand [our] feelings, and to better respond to them, is what I feel is the most important task in our world.… I think that those who would try to make you feel less than who you are:… that’s the greatest evil.”

  • “He was cool with every kid.… there were… kids that were little bastards…. Fred never said ‘This kid’s a dick, get him out of here.’”

  • “The most important learning is the ability to accept and expect mistakes and deal with the disappointment that they bring.”

  • “As he got older, it was more important for him to be strong in his beliefs. Maybe that was how he was getting his anger out… that people didn’t take him seriously — [that] they didn’t get him [and] the depth of the show.”

  • I feel this way sometimes. But the things that occupy my mind continue to come together and continue to make more sense to me as one cohesive, unified point of view.

TANK, vector arcade game animation + Making-of

80,000 Hours, career advice for recent grads

YouTube: New Music Videos

Milson Glaser: Ambiguity and Truth (in Graphic Design)

  • “So pervasive is the culture of small distortions that we can no longer recognize them as lies.”

  • The AMC Pre-show is an example of this: 1. the app doesn’t count up reward points in real time, 2. sodas cups aren’t made of glass, and 3. the seats adjustments aren’t touchscreens.

  • “Would you design a crest for a new [company] to suggest that it’s been in business for a long time?”

  • “Politicians and businessmen have re-discovered the power of Lenin’s old idea that a lie repeated often enough, becomes the truth. This dark assumption… endangers democracy itself. When people believe that their government systemically lies to them they become cynical. Cynicism breeds apathy and a sense of powerlessness that causes people to withdraw from public life.”


‘Millennial’ is No Longer a Synonym for ‘Young Person’

Got a solid (interested, engaged, friendly) group of students in 265. I’m using the same content as 308, but I’m enjoying the teaching experience a whole lot more. The students (and, by extension, the vibe) make all the difference for me.

Font Awesome: ‘Design’ icons

  • No. These are graphic design icons. #ofwhat?

Skip Hursh, illustrator

I avoid taking Lyfts because it feels so awkward: I hate the small talk (which is usually about driving for Lyft), but sitting in silence feels rude.

Supertype, typographic puzzle game

The Square + Circle continues to work as a way to easily introduce design process and illustrate its effectiveness. And I continue to see lots of concepts that I haven’t seen before.

  • Realizing now that it’s a remixing activity. And it’s the most sophisticated kind: combining (vs. copying and transforming). Which is maybe why it works as well as it does.

  • I have over 200 distinct examples now. I should share these somehow. Maybe a website that explains the exercise?

  • I didn’t save examples from the first time I used this exercise (in Concept Development at MCC, in 2011). Which was also the first thing I did on the first night of my first class. And also would’ve included Jesse and Matt. Damn!
Favorites from the Square + Circle Exercise in 265.


Trips to Omaha aren’t exactly a vacation for me. It’s a lot of scheduling and socializing, and I tend to come back needing a legitimate break (solo time).

Freddish: Mr. Rogers’ Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Kids

Interview with the director of ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’

  • “Children are incredibly emotionally honest and direct, but as we grow up, we build defense mechanisms and we hide our emotions to defend ourselves.… Fred… talked like a child would, in the best possible way, which is he had zero tolerance for dancing around the point. He was gonna go for the emotional bulls-eye of whatever it is you were thinking or feeling.”

  • “He didn’t care about being called wimpy — he cared about being called trite or insubstantial.… too many of us mistake simple for superficial and don’t appreciate the depth that was there.”

Incredibles 2 Not Great™

  • “Screenslaver.” Nailed it. Beware the Screenslaver!

Another thing I don’t miss from Omaha: mosquitoes. There aren’t many (any?) in Seattle, which is easy to forget to appreciate. (I have several bug bites from Omaha.)

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first. — Mark Twain


First day of 265 (Introduction to Visual Communication Design).

  • Right now, I like the idea of teaching this class every summer, for years: 1. I can stay connected to UW Design, 2. teaching little kids AND undergrads gives me perspective, and they’re both valuable in different ways, 3. I like being someone who teaches at both ends of the spectrum, 4. I can engage with college kids on a deeper level creatively, which I don’t want to lose in my life, 5. It’s my curriculum from the ground-up, 6. teaching graphic design is still fun for me, 7. it’s small (only 13 students this quarter) and easy to manage, so 8. I still get a summer break while making some extra cash, 9. it’s an elective, so tends to attract students who are personally motivated by the content, 10. who aren’t Design majors, and so, don’t see VCD as a thing-by-itself. They want the practical skills, and I can teach graphic design as a communication skill, which feels empowering and important. #teaching

“Why did the hipster sweat so much? He went outside before it was cool.”



Can We Be Saved From Facebook?

  • “The creators of the Internet sold their invention as inherently democratizing. Instead, information is now so concentrated that a 1984 scenario is just a few clicks away.”

  • “Surveys show audiences trust the media less than ever but consume news more than ever.”

  • “The company’s awesome data-mining tactics wedded to its relentless hyping of the culture of self has helped create a world where billions of people walk with bent heads, literally weighted down with their own bullshit”

  • “Facebook doesn’t push Nazism or communism or anarchism, but something far more dangerous: 2 billion individually crafted echo chambers, a kind of precision-targeted mass church of self, of impatience with others, of not giving a shit.”

A Peek Inside the Silicon Valley Grift Machine

  • “Most people in the industry were convinced that their work was moral because it increased consumer choice and therefore freedom. New technologies were evidence of progress and therefore innately good. And any criticism of the industry’s practices or motives therefore threatened freedom and progress.”

News Literacy Project + The Sift newsletter, teaching news and digital media literacy

I’ve been staying at Nick & Kara’s when I visit Omaha, and it’s been helpful in seeing just how much of their lives are consumed by raising little kids. (Right now, Tommy is 4 and Anna is 1.)

  • I don’t know if I’m cut out to handle a kid that’s younger than maybe 6 or 7: 1. I’m not interested in giving up the time it takes, 2. I don’t know if I’d be satisfied by the relationship (I’m annoyed by how one-directional the interactions are), 3. little kids just aren’t that interesting to me generally, and 4. I’m not sure I could actually balance all the driving-around, entertaining, baths, dinner-making, etc. with the rest of my life (I’m not very efficient at anything).

  • But I’m mostly still interested in being a dad — I do think kids are pretty compelling starting at about 1st grade. And I’ve been thinking more seriously about the idea of adoption. Which conveniently syncs up with my diminishing interest in being in a relationship.


Norris Elementary and Millard Central Middle School.


Apple’s Airpods Are an Omen

  • “bothering someone with earbuds in is… a social faux-pas: They act as a do-not-disturb sign for the body. But if AirPods or similar devices become widespread, those cues will vanish. Everyone will exist in an ambiguous state between public engagement with a room or space and private retreat into devices”
At the zoo with Tommy and Nick.


The Drawbacks to Living in a Tiny House

  • Without a doubt, my interest in minimalism and tiny houses/apartments comes from a deep anxiety about owning things — needing to worry-about, clean, dust, maintain, organize, remember, replace/recharge batteries-in stuff. Which is not a healthy reason.

Betty Who: Betty, Pt. 1 Not Great™

Sand projection thing at the KANEKO Museum and TRU.


Brock (HCDE faculty): “I am reaching out to you to see if you would be interested in teaching Visual Communication (308) again for us in the fall. Our students loved the last course you ran.”

  • Huh? So maybe it wasn’t as bad as I imagined? From the feedback I was getting from students, all quarter, the word “loved” would not have come to mind.



beleduc Wooden Layer Puzzles


Triple feature day, celebrating the start of summer break (at CWA and UW). #summerofjoe

You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes podcast

  • Garry Shandling

  • “You have to have vulnerability, or you couldn’t be searching the truth. There isn’t one actor, one artist, one human being that you’d like that doesn’t have enormous vulnerability.… That’s where you get a Trump-like guy: you iron out the vulnerabilities and you just become the bully.

  • “you have to get over this hurdle that you’re wasting everybody’s time.”

  • There are definitely times in class when I default to thinking that students don’t want to be doing that day’s lesson.

  • “When you say ‘I love you’ to somebody, really what you’re saying is ‘You are the vehicle which takes me to the place where I am loved’. They unlock in you that place where you [are that version of yourself].” — Ram Dass

  • “We want to minimize pain and maximize pleasure,… we want to welcome in the high and push away the low. [But] the enlightened person says ‘I will eat it all.’… every little moment is an opportunity [to find meaning].”

  • “You can’t break out of a prison made of thought with more thinking.” — Krishna Das

  • “I love comedy [my job], but it’s a method for me to get closer to a feeling and a place.”

How Do We Write Now?

  • “your attention is in one sense the most precious part of you, it is your soul spending yourself

  • “your attention can be diverted and used to power the devil’s Hoover Dam.”

  • “If you believe that metaphor is an event, and not just a literary term denoting comparison, then you must conclude that a certain philosophy arises: the philosophy that everything in the world is connected.”

  • “Keep me alive till I’ve finished that line. People need this, I need this, the completeness of the world is in danger if I die. In that way I thought I could go on forever”


Tom Day & Monsoonsiren: Songs for the Living Good™

Today the world is fragmented, chaotic, even unpredictable. Brands offer focus.… We make brands matter. — Ogilvy

  • Branding as a remedy to big-picture social problems? Gross.

Numi, text-based calculator/conversation app

Crash Course Media Literacy: Influence & Persuasion


Last day of school at CWA.

  • Since I’m moving to Tacoma this summer, and I’ll be commuting by train to Seattle to teach 265 at UW over the summer: this was my last Tacoma-to-Seattle rush hour drive (it was a full-on two hours, too). #GMTFOH

(Ayden) 4th grader: “You look tidy.” (which I then learned is a reference to a Fortnite dance).

  • Someone will always say something when I’m wearing a button-up shirt (which I did today) or a hat. Always.


Last day of 308.

  • I didn’t get emotional, which is unusual for me on a last day. And says a lot about what that experience meant to me.

Letter to my Kindergarten Self (written by an 8th grader, in BFI’s What to Read in the Rain 2018)

  • “Think outside the box. Don’t even stop there. Think outside the room the box is in, the house the room is in, the town the house in, the country the town is in, the planet the country is in. You will accomplish great things. / Just make sure that things are in control for you, and you can decide how you accomplish them. / See ya in 8th grade.”


“Mr. Sparano, my dude!” — 4th grader (Luca)

macOS: change the Dock animation speed

Omaha friends in the Passion Project, at the UW undergrad show.


Upgrade Not Great™


AoM: The Male Brain

  • One of the hardest moments of grad school (just two weeks in) was during a ‘women in STEM’ project. I chose to research whether biology might influence career choices, and I found evidence to support it. The class’ reception was cold, hostile, dismissive. I felt ganged up on. It was pretty rough. A response that was pressurized by the insecure asshole bully teaching the class (Tad).

  • But in the end, our group designed a project leveraging exactly that idea — that girls and boys are naturally drawn to different careers (mostly building from this Girl Scouts report). The class really liked our project, but no one acknowledged that it functioned on the same premise they’d lambasted before.

  • I still think about it. That day was an indicator that grad school wasn’t going to be the rewarding, supportive group experience I’d hoped for. I felt really isolated in that moment, and that feeling held true all the way through.

  • I remember it all clearly, but I also kept a more thorough private journal at the time (which I just re-read a few days from). 2012–2014 are well-documented years of my life — years with a lot of angst and decision-making about relationships, work, leaving Omaha, and grad school. I’m glad to have that written down, but it was too much work to maintain.

  • I’m writing less now because, in each of those big categories, I’ve either resolved them or they just feel less worth worrying about.

How The Train Level In Uncharted 2 Works

Personal project idea: interviewing teachers about why they teach the grade they do. And then their students about their teacher. #project


Kyle Chayka: Style Is an Algorithm

  • style vs. taste: “style is a superficial aesthetic code that is relatively simple to replicate, whereas taste is a kind of wider aesthetic intelligence, able to connect and integrate disparate experiences.”

  • “We know whether we like something or not before we understand why.… We don’t calculate or measure if something is tasteful to us; we simply feel it.”

  • “Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier.”

  • “Every platform, canvassed by an algorithm that prioritizes some content over other content based on predicted engagement, develops a Generic Style that is optimized for the platform’s specific structure.”

  • Examples of Generic Styles: snarkiness/irony on Twitter, idealized lifestyle photos on Instagram, memes and caption-contesting on Reddit, clickbait on Facebook.

    • caption-contesting™: treating real-world conversation or Internet comments as a competitive platform for snarky one-liners.

    • FUAY caption-contesting
  • An instance of “The medium is the message.#medialiteracy

Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry

Adrift Good™

Replace Cover, Spotify playlist cover art builder


art director who loves to help brands tell stories through digital experiences.

  • Love? Conflating commercial and personal is one of my fundamental industry gripes. Also writing in third person. #weird

  • I see students do this kind of thing in their portfolios. I’m sure they’re just mirroring what they see from the pros. And selling themselves as enthusiastically-commercial is probably helpful for surviving the Design Industry Interview Obstacle Course®. Maybe they love the visual problem-solving of branding. But to say they love brands: there’s a sad powerlessness in adopting salesmanship and jargon as a personality.

  • FUAY third-person bio

RapCaviar Visualize: Mike WiLL Made-It, DNA

Crash Course Media Literacy: Money

  • “Have you ever thought about how much goes into a movie before it gets to your screen, or before a video game gets to the store, or a newspaper onto your doorstep?”

  • “All types of media creation requires some kind of money.”

  • “If you’ve ever posted on Tumblr or doodled in a notebook, you were probably able to do that for free. But somewhere along the way someone had to pay for your Internet access and phone, or notebook and pen. Maybe you paid for it, or your parents did. But without that money you couldn’t have even doodled.”

  • “Media… didn’t just appear out of nowhere. Humans did that, and humans do some weird stuff, especially for money.” #medialiteracy

Firefox: DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials, forces https and blocks tracking

True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure — the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.

First Reformed Good™

  • “Q: Remember… when [you were young and] everything was ahead of you? A: Yeah, but try telling them that.”

  • “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

School of Life: The Problem With Our Phones

  • “To say that we are addicted to our phones is not merely to point out that we use them a lot. It signals a darker notion that we use them to keep our own selves at bay.”


Two UW Design events: Junior ID Show and MDes Exhibit.

  • It continues to inspire me to watch the UW undergrads work really hard and figure so much out, professionally and personally, so quickly.

  • Three different UW student groups have used me as a resource this year — not as UW faculty, but as a CWA teacher (one project from Caroline, Kat, Leah, and Emily was at the show tonight). Colliding those worlds is really wonderful for me, and I’d love to do more.

  • Seeing the MDes show at the Henry and standing in the same room where my project was two years ago: it was pretty cool to be able to say that, professionally, I’m doing exactly the thing now that my thesis set me up to do.

There was a time (about 2011–14) when I’d go to events like this (mostly, Omaha design industry events) pretty regularly (1–2 times/month), and I’d know a healthy chunk of the people there.

  • I loved that era. I felt connected to a lot of people that I knew really well and I felt known and appreciated. They were nights that were over as soon as they started, full of meaningful conversations from start to finish.

  • Those kinds of events still happen here (tonight was one of those nights) — but maybe only 2–3 times/year. I want more, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

  • I need more peers.

Been managing email better. But now I’m ignoring texts. Can I really only handle one channel of communication? (I also let paper mail stack up, often for months.)

Several people have asked if the new apartment is a condo. It’s not, and I didn’t even consider looking to buy. Renting works for me, compared to the long-term commitment, paperwork, and maintenance of a owning a house.

GMTFOH May 2018


Set a Simple Goal to save for a new drum set, which will be fully funded on November 3rd (the move-in date) — $4.49/day. Awww yeah.

Oxide: Omaha’s New North Makerhood identity

Media literacy differs from digital literacy by virtue of its concerns with values and effects. It [poses] the questions: Just because we have the tools to act, should we? and, What responsibilities come with using media? #medialiteracy

  • I’d love to eventually teach a middle school media literacy class. And a middle school design class.

  • education: “helping [people] understand and exercise agency”

L.M. Sacasas: Eight Theses Regarding Social Media

  • “Affect overload is a more serious problem than information overload. The product of both is moral apathy and mental exhaustion.”

  • “The structures of social media make it impossible to forget yourself.”

L.M. Sacasas: Psychodynamics of Digital Media

  • “The modern world is/was characterized by its orientation toward the future. Whereas pre-modern societies tended to look back to a distant and glorious past, modern societies are/were utopian in their expectations, assuming the best is still to come.… Yet, it is the case that contemporary culture is oriented chiefly toward the present. The architecture of digital platforms encourages a preoccupation with instantaneity, and they simultaneously sanction forgetting under the guise of pervasive documentation.”

  • “the expressive function of our documenting technologies has eclipsed the archival function. We document in order to communicate rather than remember. The project of self-remembering elides into the project of self-making.”

  • “In an oral culture, with its always visible audience and emphasis on rhetoric, I’m likely to experience communication as a performance. In literate/print cultures, with their emphasis on interiority and privacy and its invisible audience, I experience communication as an expression of the inner self; indeed, rhetoric now appears artificial and inauthentic. In digital culture, which mashes these together, I experience communication as a performance of the self. But this is an unstable compound. That it is experienced as a performance suggest that the self is inauthentic given the expectation of a stable and abiding interior life fostered by print. Irony, or snark, is the response.” #realness

  • Reminds me of ‘conversation smoosh’ from thesis research.

Riverdale² Good™

2000s Nokia font, from the original Nokia 3310.


There are days (about once a month) when most of my interactions with other people will feel… off (unsatisfactory, awkward, hesitant). I know it’s in my head — but there isn’t anything I can do to shake it. It’s related to my quality of sleep. But it also tends to spiral from some kind of destabilizing social event/moment earlier that day or the day before.

  • The best fix is just spending the day alone. But that isn’t always an option. And so, the weirdness persists and feeds on itself.

Kit Kat® White Crème

Google’s Selfish Ledger is an unsettling vision of Silicon Valley social engineering

  • It’s possible that ‘user-centered design’ and ‘user experience’ are disingenuous labels. They’re advertised as selfless activities performed FOR the user. But in product design, the real goal is often to mine something FROM them during their ‘experience’. Yes, I know UX designers who are truly motivated to help the people they’re designing for. But, zooming-out, from the business’ perspective, the point of the product is the using, not really the user’s experience itself.

Made a decision: 1st floor.

In the last week, two people at CWA (Nick and Matt) have called me “extremely reflective”. They were referring to the way I’ve responded to teaching in an elementary school for the first time (analyzing what worked and what didn’t and asking for feedback from the other teachers — who are pros, and who I’m doing my best to learn from). It was intended as a compliment, and I take it as one.

  • Really, though, it’s just the thing I do all the time, anyway.


Ulysses, Markdown editor

  • This morning, decided this would replace FoldingText. And then changed my mind by the end of the day.

  • Things I like about FoldingText that no other app (I’ve found) also does: 1. the folding (collapsing/isolating sections), 2. saving as plain text (so I can use the same files with Dropbox, IFTTT, and Drafts, 3. hiding Markdown syntax, 4. clickable URLs, and 5. the nearly-invisible UI.


Had a dream that I was part of some kind of contest to design a game based on a single vocabulary word. My word was ‘troglodyte’, and my solution was “Froglodyte”: a remix of Frogger and Pictionary, where you draw pictures (à la cave drawings) with your character’s movements as you avoid the obstacles. It kinda works!

Simple page fade-in effect with CSS + jQuery

CSS font-smoothing Explained

Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook Is a Match

  • “Facebook’s most consequential impact may be in amplifying the universal tendency toward tribalism. Posts dividing the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’ rise naturally, tapping into users’ desire to belong. Its gamelike interface rewards engagement, delivering a dopamine boost when users accrue likes and responses, training users to indulge behaviors that win affirmation. And because its algorithm unintentionally privileges negativity, the greatest rush comes by attacking outsiders: The other sports team. The other political party. The ethnic minority.”

Visited the new apartment to decide where, exactly, I’d like to live. I’ve already narrowed to the studio size (600 ft²), and they’re all still available.

  • I get the impression that I spend more time and energy deliberating decisions like this than most people, but I gotta do it. My favorite strategy for making decisions (along with +/– lists) is talking it through with someone else. (Aubree and Kurt helped me with this one, which was super helpful.)

  • It’s gonna be the southwest corner, which 1. has windows on two walls, 2. is the only unobstructed view, 3. is furthest away from the bus stop and the fire station, and 4. looks towards The Olympic Mountains. Feeling good.

  • So the last decision is either 1st or 5th floor. 5th would mean no upstairs neighbors, but it’s more expensive (by $2,500/year). 1st would mean I could own a drum set again, but it wouldn’t have much of a view.

Snow Patrol: Wildness Not Great™

The new apartment building, southwest corner.


The Outline: How social media encourages clickbaity, divisive news stories

  • Divisive stories are written specifically for people to share — as a display/demonstration of their “knowledge and partisan affiliation”. These stories encourage cultural divisions, but they’re (ironically) actually driven by our underlying motivation to belong to a group — to find people like us.

galaxy brain: [an idea that the originator] seems to feel is very clever, but [is] actually completely ridiculous.

  • whomst: a fake word used to signal ironic superior intelligence.

  • Seems like memes are often used to signal superiority — making fun of someone or something in some way.

  • The CWA kids love memes (especially the 5th graders), and I’m not sure it’s healthy. Lots of memes are innocuous, but the popular ones tend to trade on other peoples’ vulnerabilities and mistakes.

RBG Good™

  • “Q: How did you respond? A: Never in anger.”

FontBase, font management app


The new apartment is (will be) 20 minutes from CWA, 5 minutes from Taco Bell, 10 minutes from Target, 10 minutes from a megaplex, and a 3-minute WALK to what looks like a cool second-run theater. And there’s a LEGO store on the adjacent block!

Google Maps: See Street View photos of the same location in the past

Beast Good™

Select All: Q&A with Jaron Lanier

  • “Way back in the ’80s, [Silicon Valley] wanted everything to be free because we were hippie socialists. But we also loved entrepreneurs because we loved Steve Jobs. So you wanna be both a socialist and a libertarian at the same time, and it’s absurd.… And there’s only one way to merge the two things, which is… the advertising model”

  • “I’ve been concerned about… this illusion where you think that [the Internet] is this super-democratic open thing, but… it’s actually creating a super concentration of wealth and power, and disempowering you.… You say, ‘Isn’t it wonderful, with Facebook and Twitter anybody can express themselves. Everybody’s an equal, everybody’s empowered.’ But in fact, [it’s concentrating the power with] those who run the biggest computers. So the truth and the effect is just the opposite of what the rhetoric is”

  • “There’s a whole spiritual, religious belief system along with social media like Facebook that… [is] phony and false. It suggests that life is some kind of optimization, like you’re supposed to be struggling to get more followers and friends.… It’s turning into this new religion, and it’s a religion that doesn’t care about you. It’s a religion that’s completely lacking in empathy or any kind of personal acknowledgment.… It’s like in North Korea or some regime where the religion is your purpose to serve this… one system”
LEGO store near the new apartment.


The 5th graders continue to be a real challenge for me. About every other week, I’ll leave a class feeling like I mis-managed that hour — but having made the choices I thought were the right ones.

  • One of my major missteps is engaging with students on their level instead of holding the line. Today, a student (JoJo) continued to use the iPod after I’d clearly told her she was out of time. I reached out and took it out of her hands. It wasn’t aggressive, and she gave it to me, but I should’ve waited for her to hand it over. Taking it from her suggests that we’re equals in that situation, and we’re not. I lose credibility by forcing it.

  • I’m curious how things will be next year, when the current 4th graders — who I love and are not at all a pain in the ass — are in these same seats.

Signed the paperwork for my next apartment! It’s still under construction, but I have a move-in date: November 3rd.

  • This was an easy decision (it’s the only building I toured). I’d set some criteria, and this one satisficed: 1. The neighborhood (Procter District) is one of the densest areas of Tacoma, 2. there’s a grocery store across the street, 3. it’s a short walk/drive to the movies, 4. has garage parking and 5. in-unit laundry, and 6. it’s all super modern. Bonus: 7. there’s a fitness room and a rooftop deck with a sweet view, and because it’s a new building, 8. I can choose essentially any apartment, and 9. I’ll be the first person to live in the one I choose.

  • It’s not cheap. But I don’t mind. This is the kind of place I’ve imagined living (and have been working towards) for years now. This will be me, having arrived. So stoked!

  • Countdown to the new apartment: 23 weeks + 1 day. #thenextphase

Vox Explained, explainer video essays

ScreenPrism: New Girl, Farewell to the Adorkable Era

My Life in Weeks (Google Sheet), based on Your Life in Weeks

I can be surprisingly self-centered in conversations when I’m not actively working not to be. Gotta keep an eye on that.

Longform Podcast t-shirt

  • I’d love to have a Longform shirt, but I’m just not willing to wear t-shirts printed with white ink anymore.
View of Puget Sound from the Procter District.


Solo: A Star Wars Story Not Great™

  • I’m not into Star Wars or Marvel, really, but I try to stay open to the idea that any particular movie could be a meaningful, creatively-satisfying two-hours.

  • This is not. Technically, it fulfills the requirements of a movie, but it’s so clear that the goal isn’t meaning or creative satisfaction. The goal is just to have been a Star Wars thing-released (it’s right in the subtitle).


Raymond Loewy: Evolution of Product Design visualization

  • Visualizing the change of the design of anything over time would be a useful project for any grade.

  • Reminds me of The Evolution of Get Lucky + Are We Running Out of Ideas?

  • I’m interested in projects that contextualize change. It’s important to understand ‘now’ as only the latest version — not the first, and not the last.

WebCatalog, run web apps as native desktop apps

First CWA employee review. I said afterwards that I feel like I belong here. And I mean big picture. Not just teaching at this school. But of all the ways I could be earning a living: being at this specific place doing this specific thing.

  • “Teaching Effectiveness: Joe brings a broad skillset to the classroom. His lessons are thoughtful and engaging and demonstrate a deep understanding of how technology can and is used to impact the world our students live in.”

  • “Student Management: Having spent most of his teaching career with adults, Joe is learning how to manage a classroom of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. His willingness to reflect and ask questions is invaluable and will greatly speed his learning.”

  • “Relationship with Students: He has a knack for identifying topics that resonate with students. For example, his lesson on what makes apps addicting was captivating for kids. These types of projects have great credibility with our students and lead to lots of interesting conversations outside of class. It will be wonderful to have Joe on campus more next year so that these types of conversations and interactions can occur with more frequency.”

  • “Collegiality: His job requires collaboration with grade level teachers and he has done an amazing job. He has been able to glean from listening to colleagues how to take what is already being done in the curriculum and improve it. He led redesign of our library in a way that made all parties feel heard, valued and appreciated, while also keeping he process on track. Teachers love the Technology Tips: crisp, succinct, relevant and well-received by colleagues.”

  • I don’t think anyone can out-technology-tip me. #firstteamalldefense

  • “Fulfillment of School Responsibilities: Despite being a part-time employee this year, Joe consistently said yes to additional duties. He intentionally participates in the life of the school. His attendance at faculty meetings is much-appreciated and valued by his peers.”

  • “Professional Growth: Joe is a student. He takes what we are learning about, then does further research, comes back with a plan, and implements it. He is a consummate learner. He is extremely reflective and comes to others with his problems hoping to get help with solutions.”

Joined my first middle school faculty meeting, to meet the teachers, who I’ll be working with next year.

  • I mentioned that I can help integrate not just technology, but design process, into their classes. And that I’ve been building a list of digital literacy projects for middle schoolers (trolling, ethics questions, taking “time off”, a media diary, design-a-meme, my thesis) that felt a little heavy for the little kids.

This American Life: Commento Mori, on reading your own Facebook memorial.

Survivor: Ghost Island Good™

  • The theme of this season was “reversing the curse” of players’ bad decisions from previous seasons — which I really enjoyed. I have a special place in my heart for self-referential concepts.

@RealPressSecBot, transforms Trump tweets into official statements.


Assisted with an 8th grade art class (did an Illustrator demo). My first time working with the CWA middle schoolers, which I’ll do a lot more of next year.

  • I still feel like the middle school is where I should be teaching.

It’s hard to imagine the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders being middle schoolers, but it’s gonna happen.

  • It could be interesting to interview the same CWA students every year, to capture how their perspective and interests change (or stay the same) as they grow up. #project

In 308, I’ve tried a new exercise series this quarter where students find examples on campus of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ VCD and deconstruct them. I wanted to correct a common understanding about graphic design — to show that ‘good’ is not magic. There are specific reasons why ‘bad’ graphic design doesn’t work (i.e. lack of contrast/hierarchy and poorly-integrated images).

Oreo Thins (Lemon)

  • If I end up (eventually) dying from eating too many cookies, too much pizza, Taco Bell, and movie theater candy, I’m not even sure that’s a bad way to go.

  • I definitely think of adulthood as an opportunity to eat whatever junk food I want, in whatever quantity. I recognize that it’s unhealthy, but I continue to do it anyway because I just love fat and sugar.

AoM: Embracing Small Talk

  • “When someone asks you a question: play the conversation game.… I’m always prepared to give you a good answer.… I have given you something to talk about with me [and] I’ve become three-dimensional.”

  • FORM conversation topics: “family, occupation, recreation, motivation”

Castro, podcast app


Getting feedback on my classroom management from a 3rd grade teacher (Matt), specifically on if I’d kept it light enough during a tough moment in class. His suggestion was that I was keeping it too light, actually: “You have to switch to stern Joe at some point.”

  • This stuff is super hard!

  • I’m wondering if 3rd grade is maybe lower than my lowest limit. It tends to fail the test of ideas > logistics (classroom management, step-by-step instructions, and technical confusion).

  • Teaching at the elementary level has been a whole new adventure — I’m really enjoying it. But the work students are doing isn’t remotely as creatively fulfilling for me as with the undergrads. With older students, I’m more personally interested in the choices they’re making in their projects, and it’s fun to watch it unfold. CWA students are making creative choices, but (understandably, developmentally), they’re not particularly complex or meaningful. And I wonder if there’s anyway around that.

5th grader: “Your name fits your personality.” I’ve heard this before, and I said: “You mean Joe”? And he said, “No, Sparano. It’s a creative last name.”

As much as I think my parents worked too much when I was growing up, I do respect that they both really enjoyed their jobs.


The Safeway next door (one of the reasons I’ve loved living in Greenwood) is closing. I don’t believe in signs, but I do believe in keeping track of reasons why a decision feels right. And for many reasons: it’s time to move (on). #GMTFOH

Up and Then Down: The lives of elevators

  • “Every so often, a door opens when it shouldn’t and someone steps into the void. This is worth keeping in mind.”

  • “people would rather be distracted from [thinking about being in an elevator]. Even elevator music, designed to put passengers at ease, is now so closely associated with elevators that it is no longer widely used.”

  • “In most elevators, at least in any built or installed since the early nineties, the door-close button doesn’t work. It is there mainly to make you think it works. (It does work if, say, a fireman needs to take control. But you need a key, and a fire, to do that.) Once you know this, it can be illuminating to watch people compulsively press the door-close button. That the door eventually closes reinforces their belief in the button’s power.”

Cult of Pedagogy: How to Motivate Students

  • “there’s a difference between getting kids to do what you want and truly, deeply motivating them.”

Talking to dad about how his list of projects is longer than any lifetime would be long enough to accomplish. And I feel the same way.

  • I know, already, that there are books on my list I won’t ever read, movies on my list I won’t ever see, and places on my list I won’t ever go.

  • He (like me) can’t remember or imagine ever being bored.

  • It’s still strange, having spent so little time with my dad growing up, how much I am like him. We both have unlimited lists of projects, both love cookies and junk food, both perfectionists, both unusually self-sufficient.


Kirby: Customizing YouTube embeds + YouTube: Embedded player settings

  • Adding videos here, too. I’d like this page to be the definitive catalog of my thoughts and memories, and I think video is an ideal way to capture the nuances of time and place. (Plus, I’m recording videos regularly anyway).

Switching to Firefox (over Chrome). It has (built-in) most of the features I added to Chrome (with extensions): Reader View, cookie-clearing, history-clearing, web screenshots, blank new tab page.

  • I put a fair amount of energy into considering and deciding-on apps — my decision to use Firefox is also a decision not to use Chrome. The driving criteria: does this simplify my life or add complexity?

Tomorrow Lab website


Teaching classes that rely (exclusively) on technology is a recipe for debacle. There’s a chance, at all moments, that the tools won’t work as I planned, or they’ll be unexpectedly cumbersome for me to teach or for the kids to understand.

  • Today was WeVideo. Figuring out how to share a collection of videos with the class, and then for students to collaborate on a shared video file was absurdly complex. Yes, I should’ve tested it beforehand. Yes. But who would anticipate that using two of the app’s primary features would take an hour of my time to implement? Who. #digitalanxiety

  • This is a tough part of teaching in other teacher’s classrooms. My mistakes (in this case, poor preparation) are on full display to my peers.

AWOLNATION: Here Come the Runts Good™

Anna of the North: Lovers Good™

  • Starting to journal albums here. Music is a fairly major part of my life. And it’s definitely the media category I consume in the largest quantity.

Familiar Studio website

Segmented Type Appreciation Corner

CreativeMornings Omaha: Marcus Ross, Board Game Designer

  • Big fan of Marcus, especially his egoless enthusiasm. He also uses the word ‘design’ in the way I think all professionals should, where he liberally (and also egolessly) qualifies it with the kind of design he means (‘board game’). He wouldn’t just say “I’m a designer.” #ofwhat?

JK Brickworks: LEGO TRON Legacy Animated Stand

There’s something life-affirming about the fact that the Backstreet Boys are still releasing music.

The Studs Terkel Radio Archive

Vox Earworm: The Orchestra Hit


Using jQuery (.parent, .prev, .remove, .unwrap) to clean up the Media journal page — deleting personal posts, empty days, and extra bullets.

  • This day, for instance (which has only personal posts), disappears.


Voices Creating Change podcast: Justin Kemerling

  • It’s a special experience hearing far-away friends’ voices playing out of your car speakers. 2.0

  • These guys. Always inspiring (personally and professionally).

Here’s a good way to piss me off: agree to put a specific thing on the calendar at a specific day and time, and then forget or bail out without notice.

This year, I’ve been listening to Michael Jackson’s HIStory (disc 2) quite a bit. He was angry and made something meaningful and satisfying out of it, and I like that.


I spend a lot of time in my VCD classes on process. I think I’ve figured out how to teach skills around concepting, inspiration, feedback, and (today) self-critique in a way that’s grounded and usable in lots of contexts. Trends change and ‘good’ VCD is subjective. But learning to be a thoughtful decision-maker who can deconstruct how and why VCD works: that’s solid gold, and I think, pretty interesting stuff.

  • Media literacy is the gift that keeps on giving.

  • And still, this quarter in 308, it’s like: hey, now would be a good time to look up from your screen. #hello?

  • If there’s one explanation for why these students seem so disconnected, it’s that I’ve failed to demonstrate how these skills are valuable for them in their particular field. Which I didn’t expect to have to explain, and which I realized too late — that’s on me.

  • What even is HCDE? I only have a vague idea.

One of the many frustrating things about this quarter is that it feels awkward for me to be as enthusiastic and open as I prefer to be when I’m teaching. This group isn’t receptive to it.

Weval: Weval Great™

I’ve watched more basketball this season than any time since probably high school, and I’m understanding more about the game than ever.

I think I’m done with the monoparagraph on this page. I’m writing so much more than when I started (which is good), and there aren’t as many short posts that benefit (visually) from collapsing into one.

Select All: The E.U.’s new privacy laws might create a better Internet

Removing your site from the Wayback Machine

  • The Wayback Machine has been archiving since v1.0 (2004). But I feel uncomfortable with any of this being saved for posterity. I want to be able to change my mind on anything I’ve posted here, and I deserve to have complete control over it.


Toured three Seattle independent school makerspaces (I’m on the CWA committee to plan ours) — Evergreen, The Bush School, and Eastside Prep (which is legit).

  • It was a nice opportunity to stand in a few very different schools and confirm how I feel about CWA — which continues to feel like the right place for me.

  • I interviewed for two jobs at Evergreen last year (a technology teacher and a makerspace assistant). This’ll sound self-serving, but I’m really happy those didn’t work out. (Even though, ironically, the school is really close to my apartment.) Mostly because I wouldn’t have been available for CWA. But also because it’s got a weird vibe. I can say confidently that CWA is none of the things I left feeling after those interviews.

Foxtrot Not Great™

  • Things that bug me about arthouse movies: they tend to be paced slowly, plotted thinly, and told delicately — and for me, usually ring false and try-hard.

  • I feel the same way about meals, writing, podcasts, everything. Don’t try to orchestrate a precious moment. Just get to it. I want the chicken and waffles, the dense nonfiction, the questions and answers, the phat beats, the realness. Load it up. Cut the bullshit. Where’s the beef? #bs #realness

  • I was so bored during the movie, I wrote this in the theater.


Am I much [better at what I do] than when I was 17? Probably not. But I do things less by accident than I used to. — Seth Rogan #design

ScreenPrism: Mad Men, The Tragedy of Betty Draper

  • Project for this summer: watch all of Mad Men again.

Game Maker’s Toolkit: How to keep players engaged (without making games addictive)

  • “One of my goals with [this channel] is to get you thinking about why you like the games you like.”

  • During Color & Comp (after discussing the value of inspiration and showing my Great™s), a few sophomores (Jack and Eliza) suggested I offer a class called “How to Learn About Yourself”. Which is quite the idea.

I’m skeptical of technology and gadgets, but I do genuinely enjoy the stuff that works the way it promises and simplifies instead of complicates. Example: I can buy a can of soda from the machine outside my apartment with Apple Pay, and I think that’s damn cool.

Signed a legal request to use “Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.” in the book Professional Typography with Adobe InDesign (4th Edition), which is pretty neat.


Removing the grayscale photo filter here (maybe eventually, the whole site). Looking at the field trip photos, it seems silly not to show them fully saturated. (The kids wear so much color!)

  • Also switching the character at the beginning of ‘continued’ posts (like this one) to an , which I’m already using on other pages and seems clearer than a gray bullet.

TinyPNG Photoshop plug-in

Can Spotify Solve the Art-vs.-Artist Problem?

  • “The main reason that Spotify is so powerful is that it’s two things at once. It’s a distribution system, and it’s a promotional system.”

Highland, Markdown editor

  • Always looking for that FoldingText replacement (because it crashes so absurdly often). As it usually goes, though, this’ll probably have tradeoffs that won’t be worth the switch (because FT is otherwise so close to ideal).

Fugue + No Lick, royalty-free background music

  • One of my tasks at CWA is teaching responsible copyright habits, so I’ve started building a library of resources for the kids to use.

The ethics of Google Duplex

  • “Duplex was elegantly, intentionally designed to deceive. (And given that reality’s on shaky ground as it is, I don’t think this is the most responsible goal.)”

Google Experiments: Ambient Lantern

Avengers: Infinity War Not Great™


Rose, Thorn, Bud reflection technique

  • Our NatureBridge educator (Liam) incorporated multiple reflection activities into our 3 days, and the students really embraced them.

  • I’m impressed at how naturally he managed to integrate academic/scientific activities with personal/interpersonal activities.

  • During this reflection, I told Liam that it’s inspiring to see a person doing a job they clearly love. Which is true, and (I think) a rare thing to witness.

  • This is my first field trip with CWA, and I’m happy it’s with these kids. (They’re my favorite group, hands down.) Whether it’s the age (10) or these specific kids — they’re a self-aware, positive, goofball, curious, smart group of little people. 100%, maximum kid.

  • They think it’s pretty cool that I graduated from UW (I wore my UW hat today).

CineFix: 10 Best Specific Sub-genres of All Time

  • An example of Pleasure-Point Analysis.

  • “Our lives are for the most part a collection of random experiences that pull at our edges until we become the shape that we like the most.”

  • I love that there’s a category on this list called: “Movies that made me love movies”.

So many tech things are designed for people doing the same job as the designers of those things.

  • This occurred to me seeing a commercial for Monday, which uses project examples like, “new app, web campaign, roadmap, and client preparation”.

In this moment, I’m irritated because I’m assuming this commercial was intended for lots of people. But… I’m stumbling into an effect of filter bubbles and ad targeting: that they still feel like broadcasted messages — like messages that represent lots of people.

  • In this case, though, I’m likely in a narrowly-targeted demo. So my irritation is maybe unfounded, but I have to think pretty hard about the context to understand that.

I think I’ve mastered the art of the long, slow pivot pan. It feels like it paints a fairly true picture of what a moment was like.


Working with kids is not easy. Answering infinite questions, disciplining, establishing trust, maintaining authority, not taking it personally. It’s not intuitive (I think most adults do it poorly, by default). It’s a skill that has to be developed. It involves a lot of honesty, transparency, boundary-setting, accountability-holding, openness, patience. An ability to forgive yourself for not doing these things all the time. It’s really, really complex. But super satisfying, too.

Wore my Game Boy t-shirt and realized that I was in 4th grade when I got my Game Boy (in 1989).

On this trip, I managed to let go a little more than usual, participating in goofy activities that I tend to opt-out of.

  • Effective teaching requires being able to remove your ego from the situation. Not to depersonalize yourself, but to maximize your personality and person-ness.

  • We did a ‘comfort zone’ exercise, and one of the questions was “How comfortable do you feel speaking in front of a group?” I stood in the ‘slightly uncomfortable’ zone, and one of the students (Ethan) said “But Mr. Sparano, you talk to us every day….” And I said, “It’s a trick!”

Growing up is such a tragic and beautiful thing. #growingup

L.M. Sacasas: 41 Questions to Consider About the Ethics of Technology

  • “What will the use of this technology encourage me to ignore?” + “What was required of other human beings so that I might be able to use this technology?” + “What does my use of this technology require of others who would (or must) interact with me?” + “Does the use of this technology arouse anxiety?” + “How does this technology empower me? At whose expense?” + “Does my use of this technology encourage me to view others as a means to an end?” + “What knowledge has the use of this technology disclosed to me about myself?”

  • Artefact: Tarot Cards of Tech


First day of the 4th grade field trip to NatureBridge at Olympic National Park.

Columbia Heather Canyon Rain Jacket (Collegiate Navy)

  • Nearly four years in Seattle, and I finally have a rain jacket!

  • This is the first of a whole new, next-level collection of coats and jackets I’ve been dreaming of buying for years. Stoked. #treatjoeself #thenextphase

Camouflage game, hide-and-seek meets Where’s Waldo


I’m setting a new constraint that I can only post photos here as-is. No resizing, cropping, levels, brightness, etc. — just compressing with TinyPNG and uploading.

  • The goal is to reduce the temptation to edit — and the anxiety of measuring my satisfaction with decisions that aren’t measurable. If I’m not careful to set limitations for myself that reduce/eliminate decision-making, I’ll tweak details until the cows come home. And I’ll rarely feel satisfied anyway.

  • This is a reason why I’m happy to be leaving graphic design behind: there are so many unmeasurable variables and semi-permanent decisions, and it was a constant source of anxiety (sending projects to print, logo design, kerning). With teaching, few decisions feel final — if something doesn’t work as I planned, I can almost always course correct, iterate, and improvise in the moment.

  • Example: last week, the THINKY worksheet confused some of the 3rd graders because they had to match each question with a separate printed sheet. Their teacher (Deanne) suggested I add image thumbnails next to the questions, which I did, and then used (more successfully) in the second class.


“sloppy copy”: a rough, working prototype

  • Learned this phrase today from (Deanne) a 3rd grade teacher.

This American Life: The First Amendment Fiasca in Nebraska


Infocalypse Now: The future of fake news

  • “You don’t need to create the fake video for this tech to have a serious impact. You just point to the fact that the tech exists and you can impugn the integrity of the stuff that’s real.”

  • “It'll only take a couple of big hoaxes to… convince the public that nothing’s real.”

Grading 308 projects. Still hate grading, but the days are numbered. At CWA, the elementary specialists grade only twice a year, and it’s more personal than academic (focus, organization, independence, etc.) — which works for me. #GMTFOH

On the Media: Making Sense of the Manosphere + Men’s Aggrieved Entitlement

  • red-pilling: “seeing the world ‘clearly’ in a way that everyone else seems to be blinded to.”

  • “there’s a large swath of white men who believe that THEY are the victims of… discrimination. There is also a country [The United States] who believe that THEY have been victimized [by other countries].… And of course Trump, every single day, tweets how he is the victim”

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman: Tina Fey


A Public Service Announcement from President Obama (Jordan Peele)

Minute Ready to Serve Rice Cups

Figured out how to execute a concept that I’ve been thinking about for awhile: have a private journal URL (this page, for people in the inner circle), and a separate public journal — at a different URL — without the personal posts (for people just visiting).

  • I’m calling the new page Media journal, which is a convenient combination of two things I think about a lot.

  • It’s a fairly simple setup: Kirby turns one file into two different pages, and then CSS/Javascript filters it for the two (actually three, with this secret layer :) audiences.

Since I started this page, I’ve toggled it between public and private a few times. Earlier this year (right before the “Google Mr. Sparano” exercise with the 5th graders), I switched to private again, probably for good. As much as I feel that the people at CWA are my kind of people, they aren’t the right audience for this page.

I can get lost (in a good way) in coding challenges like this.

  • I’m planning to teach coding classes/clubs (using curriculum) in both elementary and middle school next year, and I’m looking forward to those.

The Outline: For the elderly, the internet can be terrifying

Tully Good™


Vox: Why sports sound better in your living room

Vox: Capturing BBC’s Planet Earth: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

  • I’m not particularly interested in watching Planet Earth. This, though (which is about the processes), I’m into.

Poppin: Home Base Desk Set + Letter Tray

Junior Kindergartners “Jedi training” on May the 4th. My office looks over the little kids’ playground, which is a very cool bonus of the job.


TinEye Multicolr, image search using custom color combinations


Another surprise 2 ½-hour morning commute (which is normally half that).

  • Commuting is death. Time that just disappears. #GMTFOH


Ghost Stories Not Great™

I have a new upstairs neighbor, and I can hear him snoring, through the floor, like really loudly, all night. #GMTFOH

Keep it light April 2018


For the 3rd graders, designed an exercise to practice THINKY, our sharing checklist: “Is it: true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, kind, and yours?”. I created ‘screenshots’ of eight situations and students walked around and evaluated the choices against the checklist.

  • Nailed it. Students had fun, and their teachers appreciated it.

  • A successful exercise just straight-up works. Students are practicing/applying the lesson seamlessly (without really thinking about the lesson at all).

  • Another bonus of teaching: I still get to concept, build, and problem-solve fun visual stuff (for lesson materials). And put my Creative Cloud experience/subscription to use.

Zion Pre-fab Tiny Homes + Hotel

I’ve been using Siri more (because of the commute), and it’s ridiculous how bad it is at its job. Also disabled all iPhone-to-Pebble notifications because they don’t work reliably.

  • The gap between what these gadgets promise to do and what they actually do is so frustrating. #digitalanxiety

Love³ Not Great™

THINKY exercise. I took the photo of Mr. Newton on my CWA interview day, which is just fun to think about — having been there then, leading to doing this now.


Seiko TV Watch

LEGO Microscale Futuristic Cityscapes


  • For the 3rd graders, working on a lesson about sharing/messaging online.


The Odds of That, coincidence vs. conspiracy

  • “The chance of getting a royal flush is very low, and if you were to get a royal flush, you would be surprised. But the chance of any hand in poker is low [e.g. 6♠, K♥, 3♦, 4♦, 8♣]. You just don’t notice when you get all the others”

  • “It’s like an archer shooting an arrow and then drawing a circle around it. We give it meaning because it does mean something — to us.”

  • “A child [learns to speak by seeing] a conspiracy: others around him are obviously communicating and it is up to the child to decode the method.”

Death of Stalin Not Great™


The 4th graders’ documentary unit continues. Today, they interviewed their 2nd grade reading buddies and captured relevant B-roll — which they’ll edit together next week.

  • Man, what a highlight. They took this recording session super seriously — actively working towards their goal, improvising, iterating, asking me for feedback. It was just really, really great.

I’m trying a new strategy for introducing apps (WeVideo in 4th, Soundtrap in 3rd): a 10‑second overview… then just letting students loose for awhile. Compared to any tutorial from me (boring, for everyone) — this seems like the best way to get oriented. And then afterwards, I just ask: “So, what can this app do?” It works.

  • It also gives them a safe space to break stuff, which they want to do right away anyway.

ScreenPrism: Westworld, The Man in Black and the Gamification of Life

  • “William’s mistake is that he doesn’t understand [that] the answers aren’t inside the game — but inside his own mind.”

LFTS: Collateral, The Midpoint Collision

  • I love this movie.

Schmeck, kids clothes “for the miniature you”

  • Little kids aren’t capable of fashion choices like this. Dressing so self-consciously is a distinctly adult thing to do, and it runs counter to one of the best things about kids — that they don’t give a shit what people think. #weird

Godfrey Dadich website

4th graders interviewing 2nd graders.


The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

Google Sheets: Randomize column

  • I use surveys and randomizing regularly in class. It’s a fun way to mix up student groups and add some unknowns to the process.

  • It’s also transparent and fair — which I think about a lot when I’m teaching. No matter what: I have to default to fairness, and I have to apologize when I do something unfairly.

  • It can be frustrating, actually. The CWA kids will recognize instantly when I’ve made a biased or unreasonable decision — but they aren’t exactly holding themselves to the same standard. (Other double standards: forgetting things, fumbling over words, taking too long, mixing up a name — really, any mistake at all.)

  • Example: I’ve been starting my CWA classes by showing the plan for the day. In 4th grade, I forgot about the last item (practice interviews), and we did something else. One of the students (Julianna) stopped me in the hallway later to remind me that I’d skipped it. I apologized, told her I realized that later, and thanked her for letting me know.

  • Another example: I promised a 3rd grader (Gray) that I’d play his fairytale audiobook for the class, and then forgot. He asked about it later and suggested: “Maybe make a note for yourself?” Ha, yes!

  • I like that the kids call me out — it shows they’re invested. And it gives me a chance to demonstrate how to be a person with genuine concern for how my decisions/mistakes affect other people.

Unspiration, pessimistic posters

  • Loading poster

  • The perfect visual metaphor for the unreliability of digital anything. #digitalanxiety

If it’s the day in class (308) where we talk about inspiration and Everything is a Remix (usually one of the most fun and interesting days), and you still don’t seem into it… is there any hope? #GMTFOH

Cult of Pedagogy: Sabotaging Classroom Management

  • I’ve definitely sabotaged myself by: “handling problems publicly”, “focusing on the problems”, and “taking things personally”.

  • Classroom management can be maddening and humiliating in the moment. (The very few rough days I’ve had at CWA were all related to classroom management.) But stepping back, the mechanics of it are really fascinating — it feels like a next-level human skill. I’m enjoying trying new strategies, and I am figuring it out.

Apple Calendar: Add a weather calendar


Facebook: Here Together commercial

  • I can’t watch a commercial without thinking about the people behind it… in a deluxe ad agency somewhere, orchestrating ‘authenticity’, representing an audience they likely aren’t members of, out of details they probably haven’t lived themselves. And how, having been released into the world, that commercial will now represent authenticity in our mind’s eye anyway.

  • “Then something happened: we had to deal with spam, clickbait, fake news, and data misuse.”

  • The something that happened (decontextualization, Like economics, algorithmic ranking) was Facebook.


felt-like-it! Storage Bins

Cult of Pedagogy: In Praise of Think-Pair-Share


Borg vs McEnroe Not Great™


AoM: Meaning vs. Happiness

  • “Meaning is… connecting and contributing to something beyond yourself.… Happiness is… about me and how I feel.”

  • “[People who feel their lives are meaningful] believe their lives… 1. have significance and worth, 2. have a purpose (some goal or principle in the future), 3. are coherent (life in general makes sense).”

Figured out how to sync the car clock with my phone, which means every time-tracking thing I own sets itself automatically. It’s a measurement of future-ness I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long, long time.

I haven’t been boxing in… 6 weeks. Ooof.


Get a Markdown-formatted link for a website

  • SearchLink, takes selected text, runs a web search, and returns a Markdown-formatted link. WHOA!

The Outline: There’s no such thing as a brandless brand

RememBear, password manager

  • Safari: BlockBear, web privacy

  • Really like this company’s apps: chunky, colorful, and straightforward.

The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling Great™

  • “Today I began a journal…. I am beginning to notice some life patterns developing inside me — some of which I do not totally understand.”

  • “Usually I carry my notes with me and always make little notations.” For me: Drafts.

  • “I best try to figure out who I authentically [am], and I can do that through standup.… So it was a parallel path. It was a true life path, and then the professional path really was secondary.”

  • “I will be happy doing [this job] because it is the real me.”

  • “The secret [to doing well professionally] is to be myself.”

  • “[Newspaper headline:] Comedian foresakes big bucks for creativity.”

  • “[The previous job]… turned into a bit of a cartoon. That was what motivated me to [start a new job] — I needed to… be allowed to explore reality.”

  • This is what teaching is for me — a way of revealing truth (instead of obscuring it). Of helping students recognize manipulation, bullshit, salesmanship, artifice. Of seeing the construction — the design — of everything. #design #teaching #realness

  • “I don’t think I have any more trouble with relationships than anybody else. I [just] think about it more, or I’m more sensitive to it, or… view it as interesting, and that’s why I end up talking about it.”

  • “[Garry] could be troubled by things that, to other people, seemed small.”

  • “Egolessness, which is the key to being authentic, is a battle.”

  • “There is no goal. This is it.… The growing is [it].” #theprocess

  • I share a lot with Garry Shandling (priorities, views on relationships, anxiety, even basketball and boxing). A lot, maybe more than anyone else I know of.

  • I have a very specific memory of watching It’s Garry Shandling’s Show once when I was in kindergarten or 1st grade.

You Were Never Really Here Good™


When I log into Facebook, I see Facebook. When I visit your blog, I see you.

Video of New York City in 1911

308 is draining. CWA is recharging.

  • An upside of feeling frustrated is that it shines a light on how much more I look forward to being at CWA, and how much better I feel when I’m there.

  • It’s really nice to have confirmation that it’s time to move on. And even better that I already have. #GMTFOH


The Meaning Generator

The most frustrating 308 day yet: students talking, texting, and generally giving as little of a shit as seems possible.

Since starting at CWA, I’ve been thinking about classroom expectations at a whole new level. It’s the first time I’ve considered (for instance) that it’s necessary to ask a question like: “How do you show me that you’re ready to learn?”. For 8-year-olds, of course they need help from adults on those kinds of things. And I’m learning how.

  • For undergrads, though? Whenever I’ve needed to explicitly set a basic expectation like, “Please be on time” (which was a problem over the summer), it feels ridiculous. I don’t think I should have to remind 20-year-olds to be on time. Or that it’s disrespectful/distracting/unhelpful to be talking/texting when I’m standing in front of the room and doing something. But maybe I do in this class?

  • And by that, I mean: yes, I clearly need to.

  • Is this thing on? #hello?

Stress + U District = MOD Pizza. Stress + Greenwood = Taco Bell.

Finished our first project in 308, which is when I’d normally do an open, all-class reflection (discussion) on what students learned and how I might improve the project. But I chose not to. I just don’t think this class would care.

Why has 308 been so frustrating? 1. The classroom technology doesn’t work consistently, 2. I can’t print to the department’s copy machine, 3. students seem especially distracted by their computers and phones, 4. students aren’t enthusiastic and don’t participate readily, 5. the room is too small, and everyone faces different directions, sitting close together, which means 6. I can’t walk around, and 7. overall, I just don’t feel supported by the class — I feel isolated, like I’m working against the grain. It’s a symphony of shit that could not be going well. Sucks. #GMTFOH

  • Is this worse than 265c over the summer? Not especially. That also sucked, just without the technical problems.


Drafts 5

  • Although the Sparano Scale is intentionally only four levels, there’s an unofficial fifth level — Great™s that’ve had an extra-especially resonant impact on my life. (Bolded here — Drafts is one of them.)

macOS: Disable the Crash Reporter dialog

  • FoldingText continues to crash a lot, and this is the most I can do about it.

JK Brickworks: LEGO Kinetic Biplanes + Star Wars remix

  • CWA after-school club idea: kinetic LEGO building. Dope!

  • We can pitch our own club ideas at CWA, and they run if enough kids sign up. Could also totally see: graphic design + screen printing (logos, t-shirts, posters), coding, movie-making, LEGO stop-motion, radio/podcast/interview stories, game design, comic books, personal websites!, music production (and all of them wrapped inside some sort of design process).

The 5th graders have been really curious about Lorem ipsum. (I’ve used it during a few demos in class.)

Here’s a good way to piss me off: not read an email I wrote in response to a time-sensitive question you asked.


Kirby: Image Syntax

  • Gonna start adding photos here. I’m taking them anyway, and this page feels incomplete (conceptually and visually) without them.

  • I’ve hesitated for fear of spending silly amounts of time tweaking images (which I did in the Instagram days), so I’ll try not to be too precious with these.

FUAY texting in class + FUAY blank stare #hello?

  • I had the chance to teach 308 for all of last year, and I’m so happy now I didn’t take that offer. I think I would’ve been miserable.

  • A few years ago, Ashley told me about the SOFTEN listening technique (“smile, open body language, forward lean, taking notes, eye contact, nod”), which I think about a lot.

  • Teaching has changed the way I approach being in an audience myself. Looking into a crowd and seeing people (appear) not give a shit is just so disheartening.

I feel best in classrooms where I can move around, no matter what we’re doing. Meaning: there’s a wireless projector and everyone has elbow room. Both are problems in 308. (Or, at least, walking around helps me manage the anxiety I feel when I’m teaching.)


LEGO Lineupz

Isle of Dogs Not Great™

Gardein Vegetarian Meatless Meatballs


Reddit and the Struggle to Detoxify the Internet

  • “[Some people] are maybe not expressing sincere beliefs, but are treating it more like a game — if I post this ridiculous or offensive thing, can I get people to upvote it?”

  • It’s been interesting to see how memes manifest with the CWA kids. The 3rd and 4th graders love Doge, the 4th graders say LeBron Jaaames a lot, and the 5th graders have do you know de wey?

  • Reddit Place (/r/place) + timelapse, collaborative pixel drawing social experiment

GadgetWraps: Pebble 2 Glass Screen Protector

Chappaquiddick Good™


The Outline: The public shaming of Mark Zuckerberg

  • “our shame-worthiness often lies in the space between who we are and how we present ourselves to the world.”

  • “our renewed zest for public shaming is itself is a side-effect of social media culture — collective outrage at the discovery that one’s public and private selves are incongruous.”

  • “Zuckerberg is one of the architects of modern shame. After all, Facebook and… Instagram are two of the chief tools that we use to create [that] distance…. #realness The goal of business

  • “Business owners do not normally work for money…. They work for the enjoyment of their competitive skill…. The money they earn supports this way of life.”

  • I’m skeptical of entrepreneurship. But only when I suspect entrepreneur-ing is the goal — a recipe for bullshit, artifice, and weirdness. If the goal is to make a living doing something for the joy of doing it: that’s excellent. But I doubt that’s true for most startups and ‘founders’ (a truly gross word).

FetchRSS, for following Instagram and Facebook feeds without using those apps

  • Circumventing the walled gardens is getting more difficult. And I’m guessing this fix will eventually break, too. #digitalanxiety

Office Depot Project-View Transparent Folders


Cult of Pedagogy: When Students Won’t Stop Talking, explicitly modeling the behavior you want to see

  • “I would think, ‘Why don’t they respect me?’ And then I’d start getting upset…. Our stress comes from either trying to convince students to behave and/or taking their misbehavior personally.”

  • Non-stop talking has been a really frustrating part of the switch to younger kids.

  • “when most of the class is not doing what you ask, it’s on you.… there’s something they’re not understanding.”

  • When I first started teaching, a friend (Nicole) gave me this advice, and I’ve followed it since. I can be confusing, I forget to say essential things, I try experiments that don’t work. And when I do, I’m not shy about sincerely apologizing and taking responsibility.

  • Conveniently, those moments are valuable opportunities to talk about design. Mistakes are a form of feedback, and when I do the same project/exercise again, things tend to improve. #design #teaching

After I move to Tacoma, and I regain those commuting hours, I still want to find a few hours for podcasting every week. I get a lot out of it.

Another reason why email is so complex for me: although a message-sent is technically a task-completed, that message might get a reply. And so, completing the task often just creates another task later.

Nominated Carie and Karla for CWA Inspirational Faculty/Staff awards. I work with some genuine, no-bullshit, fantastic people.

The Strangers Good™

Beirut Not Great™


Cult of Pedagogy: Middle Schoolers

  • “As a trusted adult in their lives, you’re in a unique position to influence these kids and fill in the gaps… left by their (self-imposed) isolation from their own families.”

  • Teaching has been a helpful way to prototype being parental, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. But I still haven’t decided if I want it to be a prelude to actually being a dad. Or if, instead, it’s already the perfect balance of responsibility and independence.

For 308, designed an exercise where students: 1. collaboratively build compositions with 2. physical/non-digital objects (crumpled paper) to 3. practice communicating emotions visually, 4. apply the composition strategies they’ve learned, and 5. use feedback tactics they’d defined for themselves (in a different exercise). Super fun, and went great.

  • This was an actual list of goals I’d written and then designed the exercise to reach. This part of teaching feels a lot like graphic designing: figuring out how to connect the dots — dovetailing. Which I’m really good at and I enjoy doing at a fundamental level.

  • Parts of this were inspired by watching Survivor, which continues to feel surprisingly close to the classroom experience.

technology is… antagonistic towards us

FUAY minimum effort

  • I say a lot that I love teaching. And when I say it, I know that my sincerity is written all over my face. And I mean it.

  • But when I say it, I’m thinking of specific classes, where 1. students have invested themselves personally and academically (Color & Comp at UW and Concept Development at MCC) and/or 2. the students and the ideas are just fun and satisfying to work with (CWA).

  • Those account for half of my classroom experiences. The rest have been disappointing, frustrating, and/or only marginally satisfying (although still a pretty good way to make a living).

  • 308 and 265 are in this category.

  • In other words, it’s not that I love teaching, it’s that I’ve loved working with specific groups of students at specific moments in their lives and around specific ideas. #teaching

Didn’t realize that Kanye’s been iterating on Life of Pablo since its release. Cool!

Paper compositions exercise in 308.


Sophos, antivirus and security app

A bonus of journaling is that, when anything on this page comes up in conversation, I know exactly what I think about it. “How do you like teaching little kids? Are you excited to move to Tacoma? What’d you think of that movie?” Oh! Well let me tell you…


Prime(d) podcast, Amazon’s effect on Seattle

  • I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that my CWA salary ($50k) will set me firmly in the middle-middle class. Even after moving to a city with more potential, getting a Master’s degree, gaining experience teaching design and technology skills to kids: it’s not much of an increase over my Oxide salary… in Omaha… in 2012. (This’d be true teaching at UW full-time, too — it’s just what teaching pays, I guess.)

  • Relative to a salary in Seattle’s design/tech industry, it’s significantly less. I mention this now because — as much as I’d hoped for an upgrade financially — I imagine I’d have a difficult time working for a company whose salaries are responsible for affecting Seattle/Tacoma in the way that Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook (and the design firms consulting for them) have. As smug as it is to say, I’m happy not to be a part of this problem.

  • Also, there are significant (non-financial) benefits of teaching as a job: 1. it’s fun, I look forward to going to work, 2. there’s a lot of variety, 3. it’s meaningful and satisfying, 4. I have lots of flexibility and independence, 5. I’m on my feet a lot and rarely sitting at a computer, 6. it’s creative, and 7. I have three+ months of vacation a year. MONTHS!

  • These are major bonuses. And I don’t think that’s a coincidence. It’s difficult to find a fun, meaningful, satisfying, creative, flexible job that ALSO pays well. These trade-offs are part of the design of the system.

  • Do I know people with design/tech industry jobs who make big bucks AND who’d say their jobs fit that criteria? Probably, yes. But I think it’s rare.

Spoiler alert: spoilers make you enjoy stories more

  • “spoilers help you know the purpose [goals] of the overall narrative…. If you know the ending as you watch it, you can understand what the filmmaker is doing.” #design

People ask me my age more often than seems normal, and I’m not sure what it means.


Tom Gauld, illustrator


A Quiet Place Good™

  • Emily Blunt, forever.

Here’s a good way to piss me off: show up late to a movie we’re seeing together.

Cancelled my Esquire subscription, which I lost interest in after my favorite writers left (Tom Junod, Scott Raab, Mike Sager). The end of an era for a Great™ thing.


the best moviegoing experiences are the ones you undertake by yourself.

  • I watch 95% of movies by myself.

  • 1. I like the flexibility of choosing any genre (I’ll see most anything Certified Fresh), 2. I like being able to go to the theater right now (or in the middle of the day, or right after school, or whenever), and 3. I like sitting in the last row.

  • My first solo theater experience was The Aviator (I was 25).

  • That day, I remember feeling anxious about sitting alone. Over the years, that’s slowly evaporated, and now, I rarely think about it — I love it. Movies, for me, are a way to disconnect and manage stress. Turning it into a social experience dilutes the effect.

  • That day was the only time I’ve seen three movies in the theater in one day, which was fun.

CreativeMornings Omaha: Tim Guthrie

Downsizing movie poster

This Is 40 Not Great™

Gemini Not Great™


Niklas Rosén, micro/minifig-scale LEGO builder

Since at least 2009 (when I purchased, I’ve had a crystal clear vision in my head for an online directory of tiny LEGO projects like this. Not a business venture, just a way to celebrate this kind of building, which is so dear to me.

  • And I think the next phase may be the time to finally make it happen.

The Switch, carbonated 100% juice

Scor Post Pro, tennis score keeper


Vimeo: Simple Video Projects

  • Starting a documentary unit with the 4th graders. Super stoked for this one.

Volunteered at BFI, for the first time since CWA. I didn’t love these field trips before, but now that I’ve had the experience of working with the same group of kids consistently (at CWA), this kind of one-off workshop feels especially unsatisfying.

  • I’ve considered workshops-as-a-job a few times in the past (design skills for kids, VCD for professionals), and I’m really glad I didn't pursue that.

  • For the same reason, I’m also happy to be moving on from freelance teaching (where I work with the same students for only a few months).

Not that BFI wasn’t fun today. It was a 4th grade class (a truly great age). Which I guessed correctly as soon as they sat down.

  • At CWA, it’s been fascinating to recognize the differences in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. I can see distinct lines between them now. It’s incredible (and not something I’ve ever really considered before). It’ll be even crazier to watch individual kids grow up over the next few years.

  • Ran into two UW Design seniors (Cameron and Luke) at the HUB. Even the changes from undergrad sophomores to seniors — seeing kids gain confidence and become more of themselves — is pretty awesome to witness.

  • I was their Color & Comp TA in my second year of grad school. In total, there’ll be four UW Design classes that I’ll have met on day one, and this is the 2nd graduating class. Right now, I know all of the students in the Design program, and this is the last quarter that’ll be true.



Variable Fonts directory

A CWA librarian (Deborah) was curious how I’ve integrated media literacy skills in my classes so far. I said this: the 3rd graders are recording audiobook versions of fairytales they’ve written. We started by 1. watching this Vox video and 2. discussing observations about process and technique, then 3. listening to existing audiobook fairytales from Storynory, and 4. as a class, developing a set of criteria for high-quality audiobooks. After all that, then students started recording.

  • And as I was saying that, I was thinking: This is a damn. cool. job!, and so exactly where I should be.

  • We could’ve started recording right away, but so much of the learning in a project like this is through analyzing the examples — in 1. demystifying how the world works, 2. opening their minds to what’s possible creatively, and 3. giving them a framework for thinking independently about any designed thing they encounter. For this project, the recording is empowering and cool, but it’s the lesser part of the value. #medialiteracy

  • Another bonus of examples: they’re fun and interesting. The kids enjoy them.

  • It took me a few years of teaching to realize how essential examples are. Looking back, it’s crazy how few I used.

I subscribed to YouTube TV to watch basketball and movies, but so far I’ve mostly been watching Shark Tank.

  • Broadcast TV feels comforting to me, and has for as long as I can remember. It’s confirmation that other people are out there, somewhere, doing something.


Braille Neue, universal typeface for blind and sighted people.

Chrome: Fontface Ninja, for inspecting/trying/buying fonts

I believe it takes at least one time through a class to know how to teach it. It’s hard to predict what students understand already or how they’ll think about the topics at hand. I need students’ feedback (their confirmation or confusion) to get oriented, to measure their perspective.

  • All of CWA feels this way. Every lesson is me throwing my best intentions into the middle of the room and observing what happens next. Keeping what sticks and revising what doesn’t. #LtD

  • Unexpectedly, though, 308 feels like a new class, too. A lot of my expectations have been wrong. It’s been a little bumpy, and that’s on me for thinking I’d taught this one before.


Meetingbird, meeting scheduler

A few weeks ago, Matt (one of the 3rd grade teachers) gave me advice for managing students in frustrating moments (mostly, when they won’t stop talking): keep it light. And it resonated. Not that I was keeping it heavy, but I know my frustration has been visible. However, when I can respond with authority AND with a smile on my face, the students are receptive. It’s usually only momentarily effective, but at least I haven’t lost them, and I can try again.

My CWA worksheets have got to be some of the most typographically-sound documents ever designed for elementary schoolers.

Bought some Chris McVeigh LEGO sets: My Old Desktop: Mac, My Old Basement: Atari 2600, and My First TV: 80s.


The Believer: Interview with Maurice Sendak

  • “much was written about Sendak’s legendary crossness, but it was really just impatience with artifice. ‘I refuse to lie to children,’ he said. ‘I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.’”

  • I also have an impatience with artifice. It’s possible that it’s my defining characteristic.

  • FUAY artifice

With Aubree’s help, spent a few hours driving around Tacoma, scoping out neighborhoods and figuring out where I might live in three months.

  • Probably downtown — which 1. has the kinds of modern, urban dweller apartments I’ve always wanted, 2. is on the waterfront, 3. is near the light-rail and Seattle Sounder, 4. has a YMCA (where I can keep boxing), and 5. is 10 minutes from a Target and a Taco Bell.

  • Tacoma just might be the right compromise between a dense metropolis and a city small enough for me to feel like a visible human being again. (It has half the population of Omaha, but doesn’t feel like it because it’s more dense.) #thefreeze

  • Reminds me a lot of Omaha, actually (medium-sized, drivable, railroad history, in the midst of a revival). But has many of Seattle’s bonuses (a mountain view, marine-town cachet, left-leaning open-mindedness, and PNW weather).

  • It felt great to start this exploration. I’ll always love Seattle, but I’m so ready to move and start the next phase. So ready. #thenextphase

Loveless Not Great™

  • I’m just not an independent and foreign film kind of guy.

Graphic Design Retirement March 2018


Pop Culture Detective Agency, media, politics, and masculinity video essays

  • So You Think You Can Be President?, SYTYCD × 2008 Presidential Debates

  • ADmented Reality, Google Glasses × Google Ads

  • A remix video would be such a great middle school media literacy project.

  • Born Sexy Yesterday

  • “At the end of the day, this is a male fantasy about escaping the humiliation of rejection”

  • The Adorkable Misogyny of The Big Bang Theory

  • lampshading: “when media makers deliberately call attention to a dissonant or overly-cliched aspect of their own production… to duck potential criticism [and] keep getting away with it.” (As in: a person obviously hiding under a lampshade.)

The Difference Between Experience and Wisdom

  • The journey is always teaching you.

  • “Successful people who are happy do it for the craft of it.”

  • This is a reason why teaching has been more satisfying for me vs. graphic designing. From the start, teaching has felt more like a craft. I’m intrinsically motivated to think and learn about it. And the day-to-day, small successes are satisfying even though I’m the only person who could recognize them. (The students have no idea I’ve improved because they’ve only seen one version of anything I’ve done. And until CWA, there hasn’t been another teacher in the room who could say, ‘Hey, you’re getting better.’) But I recognize it, and that’s been satisfying on its own.

List of plain English words and phrases

Lars and the Real Girl Good™


The Net: Ordering a pizza scene

  • I saw this in the theater (in 1995), and I remember this moment so clearly.

Vinyl Idolz, pop culture figurines

Nerdwriter: How Dark Patterns Trick You Online

  • dark patterns: “features of interface design crafted to trick users into doing things they might not want to do, but which benefit the business” #design

Tim Guthrie: Traveling with Virtual Beth

IBM Plex typeface


Geoffroy de Crécy: I’m not a robot

Here’s a classic Seattle Freeze interaction: 1. I’m walking down a hallway or sidewalk, 2. person (against the flow of traffic) crosses in front of me, 3. so closely, that I have to stop, 4. person doesn’t make eye contact or acknowledge in any way that we would’ve collided had I kept walking. Happens all the time. #hello?

LibrarianShipwreck: Technological Resolutions for 2018

  • “Imagine the accident:… Can it be hacked? Can it breakdown?… [Will you eventually] wake up to find that this device just doesn’t work anymore?” Always, yes.

  • take some time off. And by ‘time off’ what is meant is take a day in which you turn, at least some things, off.”

The vibe in 308 is a lot different than Color & Comp. There’s more silence, fewer questions, fewer volunteers, more blank stares, less openness, less visible enthusiasm for the exercises. It’s only been two days, but it feels consistent with the version I TA’d in 2016.

  • I don’t have much patience for students who aren’t outwardly interested in class. (The older the student, the less patience I have.) Is this fair? I don’t know.

  • I try to bring a lot of energy to class, and when that isn’t reciprocated, I feel vulnerable and frustrated. My energy can sour quickly, and I need to be careful of that. (I had the same feeling in 265c last summer, Design Your Hood at SAM, and the Yesler Terrace project.)

  • This is a major bonus of teaching younger kids: there’s just more energy in the room. Even if, at times, that energy is not about the lesson, and it can be frustrating to manage — the energy is helpful for me.

  • Was 308 a mistake? No. At the time, it was my ticket to health insurance and maybe a regular spot in HCDE. But then CWA happened, and 308 feels like an extraneous leftover from a bygone phase.

Another bonus of teaching is that I’m on my feet a lot. Since I’m wearing a smartwatch now, UW and CWA days are 8–10 k+ steps, no problem, just doing my job.

Ready Player One Not Great™

  • How did we get to the point where all movies must include mechs and/or armies battling it out for 20 minutes? Do people actually enjoy this?

  • FUAY climactic battle scene


The Last Conversation You’ll Ever Need to Have About Eating Right

  • “Q: What should I care about on nutrition labels? A: The best foods don’t even have labels, because they are just one ingredient”

  • “Q: What about intermittent fasting? A: Fasting is not more effective than limiting calorie intake every day.… If it works for you, it’s a reasonable option, but it does not involve any magic.”

  • For months now, I’ve been limiting my food before noon to a chai latte (usually Starbucks, 240c) and not eating after 8:00p, and it does work for me.

  • “Q: It seems like the conventional wisdom on healthy diets changes all the time. A: It doesn’t, and the definition of a healthy diet has been clear for some time. In fact, the basic theme of optimal eating — a diet made up mostly of whole, wholesome plant foods [vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and water] — has been clear to nutrition experts for generations. What does change all the time is the fads, fashions, marketing gimmicks, and hucksterism.… If you get the foods right, the nutrients sort themselves out.”

Lists of movies: filmed/set in Seattle + filmed/set in Washington state + filmed/set in Nebraska.

Chrome: Auto History Wipe

  • Most days, I have my computer connected to a classroom projector, so this seems like a good idea.

A goal for the move to Tacoma is having a washer and dryer in my apartment (which I’ve had for just 2/14 years of apartment living). It’ll be a measurement of having leveled-up. #thenextphase.

Decided on a set of equally-weighted Journal categories: 1. essays (text, video, or audio), 2. movies, tv, documentaries, and 3. miscellaneous bookmarks (idea nuggets, web resources, LEGO builds, stuff purchased, etc.).


Give me a few precious photographs, a few minutes of grainy film and I will treasure them and hold them dear. Give me several terabytes of images and films and I will care not at all.

First day of HCDE 308.

  • The UW campus is absolutely one of my favorite places to be. I’m inspired by how much forward movement there is, all the time.

  • Added Great™ places

Sitting in the HUB, a guy (late 20s-ish) nearby made a phone call. It was 11:20, and he said “I have an 11:00 appointment,” then had a conversation about meeting in person (which, I think, he didn’t realize he was supposed to be doing at that moment). The phone call ended without a goodbye. He opened a box of crackers, spilling a bunch on the floor, and walked away.

  • I’m writing about this because there was a time in my life where I would’ve thought that this guy was just a selfish idiot and responsible for being one. But, today, I’m thinking about how (more likely) he just hasn’t had people in his life to help him learn the norms of things like this. And if that’s true, I don’t think he’s responsible for not knowing. I think other people are responsible for not helping him.

Black Mirror⁴ Good™

  • This season’s Black Museum episode and season two’s White Christmas are each collections of short stories. Watching them, I’m reflexively thinking about how these episodes came to be. They feel like they originated as unrelated, smaller ideas, jotted in a notebook, that never coalesced into standalone concepts, and were later mixed together. Not necessarily a criticism, but I'm just inclined to notice the seams.


What Ever Happened To Brendan Fraser? A Lot.

  • “It’s one of those delicious moments where you see someone you’re so familiar with who is so changed by time and by experience. You kind of just clock that, and it’s both so sad and wonderful. Because we all share that same time line.”


Chrome: Twitter/Facebook Demarcator, hides social media metrics

  • “the ultimate function of… nearly all social-media [metrics] is to make its users insecure, because insecurity compels engagement.”

  • To me, likes/favorites are the most disturbing thing about social media. Why? They appear to be personal (‘I’m liked!’), but they’re actually depersonalizing: they 1. flatten everything to quantifiable bits, 2. distort and manipulate our perception of what ideas are ‘valuable’, and 3. incentivize extremeness and polarization.

You like my like of your like of my status

Sunshine Cleaning Not Great™

  • 25th movie of the year (a little behind schedule).


LibrarianShipwreck, technology criticism blog

  • Be Wary of Silicon Valley’s Guilty Conscience

  • “The Center for Humane Technology weaves a tale in which [technologists] are the saviors.… [It] doesn’t want… you to turn your phone off [or] to genuinely challenge the power of Google and Facebook. What CHT can’t bring itself to say… is that the problem is computer dominated society itself.”

  • It’s Not Enough to #deleteFacebook

  • surveillance capitalism: monetizing data acquired through digital monitoring… “to produce new markets of behavioral prediction and modification…” (Facebook/Google) “rather than the production of new goods.” (Apple)

  • “there are two types of technologies: democratic ones (such as bicycles) that strengthen personal autonomy; and authoritarian ones (such as computers) that ultimately come to exert total power over their users.”

  • “When using any technology it’s always worth considering how it is using you”

The Russian Reversal joke construction

  • “It asks us to consider where the power is really centered”

SketchAR, drawing assistant

Gravit Designer, in-browser vector app

  • This is a pretty legit replacement for Illustrator (and it’s free, and doesn’t require a login). I’m looking forward to, some day, being done with Adobe Creative Cloud entirely.

iOS: Swipe away screenshot previews

As much as I believe that graphic designers are responsible for a shameful load of the world’s BS — I still catch up on Typewolf every Friday and really look forward to it.

Production Type, type foundry

ScreenPrism: The Design of Black Mirror’s Twists

  • “[Technology hides] the person on the receiving end of [our] actions”

  • “Our technology is… a black mirror — it has the power to reflect and magnify our worst traits.”

Unsane Good™


The Tyranny of Convenience

  • “the second wave of convenience technologies — the period we are living in — conveniencize individuality… [and] self-expression.”

  • “You might date the beginning of this period to the advent of the Sony Walkman in 1979.” #xennial

  • “When things become easier, we can seek to fill our time with more ‘easy’ tasks. At some point, life’s defining struggle becomes the tyranny of tiny chores and petty decisions.” #digitalanxiety

  • “Embracing inconvenience may sound odd, but we already do it…. We call them hobbies [and] passions.… They reward us with character because they involve an encounter with meaningful resistance”

I’ve been journaling on this site, more or less daily, for 3 years now — that’s pretty good!

AoM: The Rise and Fall of the American Heavyweight Boxer

I finally have a go-to cocktail for ordering at parties that I legitimately like and is cool: a whisky ginger.

OneBusAway Pebble app

  • One of the things I appreciate about the Pebble is that there's no speaker — it can never beep. And so, there’s no anxiety about remembering which mode it’s in. #digitalanxiety



Bought to use for CWA shortlinks.

  • First one is the Technology Playground™ with the 4th graders (spawned from the success of Weird Website Day with the 5th graders).

  • I used a custom domain for the first time in Color & Comp in 2016, and I’ve done it for every class since. They’ve been a really useful tool., interactive virtual paper planes

Cubic Time, clock visualization

Internet Archive: Macintosh Software Library


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.”

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 the most precious things I own are a small collection of toys, books, and LEGO that I see keeping for good — they’re the lowest limit of my minimalism.

Game Maker’s Toolkit: Adaptive Soundtracks

It is so common in Seattle for people to cancel plans. Super frustrating. Happened twice (Sarah Jo Ward + Sarah/Scott) this week.

  • Might set a new rule that I don’t reschedule. When I put events on the calendar, I schedule around them during that week. Canceling feels disrespectful — of not just that time slot, but of a whole week’s worth of decision-making.


L.M. Sacasas: 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

L.M. Sacasas: 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.’”

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.

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, streaming guide


Love, Simon Good™

Brigsby Bear Good™

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.


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.]”


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

Visited the UW sophomores’ Design Methods Showcase.

  • I love and miss these kids students. 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: “Last 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.

  • It’s possible that classes with elementary schoolers won’t ever be as satisfying for me as classes with older students. And that I need to find ways to work with the CWA 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.

  • Here’s a goal: following my current 3rd graders to full-time middle school in 2 ½ years. That’d be dope!

  • In the mean time: middle/high 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.

Spotify: Create Similar Playlist


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

  • “a good puzzle is: 1. derived from the game’s rules (constraints, 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

I think one of the best and rarest compliments I can give to someone is saying that talking to them feels like a safe space. (Said this today to Ashley.) Not that I deeply distrust people overall, but I rarely feel like I can say what I'm really thinking without risking judgement or conflict.

  • This is one of the reasons I wanted to leave Nebraska. Ironically, though, several of my Nebraska friends are these people.


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


Crash Course Media Literacy

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


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


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).

‘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.

Disney/Pixar Script to Screen videos

LECO 1976 typeface, one of the Pebble defaults


Vox by Design: How free games are designed to make money

  • Vox by Design: 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

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


Los Angeles Philharmonic logo

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.


Emojipedia, emoji history

  • Emojicopy, emoji search, copy/paste

  • 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.

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 EditingGood™

  • “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)


have i been pwned?, data breach search tool

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!


Black Panther Not Great™

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.

  • There were Muppet versions of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Jerry Nelson.


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).

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.


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


The 3-Act Lesson Design

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.

  • The unexpected, ironic twist to getting around in a dense metropolis is that, although lots of things are within walking distance, any destination the requires transit or driving is a pain in the ass.

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

The Outline: Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter Are Not Going to Fix This


Lock a Mac screen with a keyboard shortcut

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.)

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

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.


Radio Diaries DIY Handbook

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.


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.


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

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).

Teachers and students with personalized handshakes


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

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

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

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 decontextualizer.

  • 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 (like social media generally) to co-opt other peoples’ work/successes/failures for their own gain.

  • Relates back to George Saunders’ great disconnect.

Went to a UW Design portfolio review. Two other ‘pros’ and I were meeting with a junior (Matt), who I know as a fairly anxious guy (and was in this moment) too — but he was doing fine. Mid-review, one of the pros stopped him and said: “Pause and take a deep breath, you’re in charge of this,” and then waited for him to take the breath. It felt condescending, particularly since this student was already being himself. And the tone of it undercut the very message he was claiming — that the student had the power.

  • It felt typical, to me, of the student-pro dynamic in the design industry. I believe absolutely that the popularity of mentoring, giving talks, and reviewing portfolios is less about being of service to students and more about stroking professional egos.

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).

The Outline: 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.

Pebble: Snap to activate 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.


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.”

  • 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.

FUAY good taste

CyKey one-handed ‘chording’ keyboard

Jane Good™


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


Minute Maid Sparkling Juices

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.


Metal Feelings T-shirt

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?”

  • Cheryl

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.

  • A bonus of teaching elementary and middle schoolers: no more recommendations! (Maybe. It’s possible I would when they eventually graduate from high school.)

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 Not Great™


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.


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.”

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.

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. #lesson

  • 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. #lesson

  • 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.


Documents, file manager app

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.

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.


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.

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.

Brexit Stamps


Nintendo Labo

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.”

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.”


Larry Bird Explains Pick and Roll

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

15, less social sharing

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

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

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 Good™

  • “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.


My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman: Barack Obama

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

Kauf: Regrowth Great™


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 Post Good™

  • Alison Brie, forever.


Reading Twitter in Feedbin

  • I love Feedbin so much.

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

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.

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


Jacob Elias: Things I’ve Learned

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.


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

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.


FaBiOX LEGO Minifig Cases

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

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.”

  • “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™

Title: Journal 2018
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