The Next Phase December


Watched 116 new (to me) movies this year.

One of the biggest accomplishments for me in 2018 is finally curing my toenail fungus (thanks to medication and laser treatment that I started last year). This has been an embarrassing weight on my mind and my confidence for 20 years. I thought it might be a curse for life, and it’s gone. This is HUGE.

Bring You Home, scene-changing puzzle game

Vice Good™




Runza hat


Des Moines

Being in airports. Man, it makes me think. About relationships, being a dad, where I’m going, and where I’ve been. It’s good.

  • I spent the whole trip (both flights) from Seattle to Des Moines reviewing the last few months of this page. Which tends to be what I do on these flights (and feels like the ideal time to reflect). #journaling

I get the impression sometimes that people think it’s strange for me to post things like this, publicly. But this journal is possibly the most important thing I do for myself. Why would/should I be embarrassed about that?


I’m doing a terrible job of staying in touch with the important people in my life. (This has always been an issue for me, but I’ve reached a new level of out-of-touchness.) At the same time, I like having so much time to myself. And I don’t feel like I have much capacity for being much more in touch. Communicating (in any medium) continues to seem, (ridiculously) stressful, hard, and time-consuming.

  • And I recognize that moving away from my friends and family is where this problem started. But that I also like being in a place where I’m relatively isolated and have so much freedom and time to myself.

  • And I’m worried, if I continue to be out of touch, I’ll strain the flexibility and patience of these people beyond the point where many of them are willing to stay in touch with me. I don’t want that to happen.

For instance: I’ve had very few demands on my schedule for the last week (Christmas break) — no alarms, five movies, NBA, reading, writing, thinking, getting organized and settled in the new apartment. And holy shit, it’s been the best. I’ve loved it.

  • I don’t think I’m busier than other people — the opposite, actually. I just handle the stress of having demands on my time really poorly.

Also, I’m loving the new apartment. It’s the super nice, clearly responsible adult, no compromises, sweet neighborhood place I’ve imagined living for years now. It’s an apartment of someone who has their shit figured out (ostensibly). #thenextphase

Glitch, web-based development environment

The Endless Not Great™

Very Slow Movie Player, ePaper movie art frame

NYT Popcast: Your Questions About Pop Music in 2018, Answered

Conscious consumerism won’t save the world: Lobby instead.

  • A 2012 study compared footprints of ‘green’ consumers who try to make eco-friendly choices to the footprints of regular consumers. And they found no meaningful difference between the two.”

  • “friends are always asking me where to take their old clothes so that they are either effectively recycled or make it into the hands of people who need them. My answer? It doesn’t matter where you take them: It will always end up in the exact same overloaded waste stream…. it’s the fault of the relentless trend cycle of fast fashion, which is flooding the secondhand market with a glut of clothes that Americans don’t want at any price.”

  • “There’s also the issue of privilege.… You need a fair amount of disposable income to afford ethical and sustainable consumption options”

  • “there are diminishing returns to the energy you put into avoiding plastic or making sure your old AAs end up in the appropriate receptacle.… ‘Fretting over these small decisions [is] a gesture… that you care about the environment. But the action itself makes no difference’”

  • “On its face, conscious consumerism is a morally righteous, bold movement. But it’s actually taking away our power as citizens.… if you really care about the environment,… get yourself to a town hall meeting.”


The Discourse: Making mistakes in the Internet era

  • “I see this around Thanksgiving each year where a slew of ‘how to argue with your Trump-loving uncle’ articles come up as if every interaction in our lives has to be a chance to flex our… political and moral superiority. Or when people apply harsh judgement to the day to day consumption choices of their friends.”

  • “bad actions and choices you disagree with don’t preclude you from empathizing with them.… we certainly have our own failings that we can’t see that other people forgive us for constantly.”

  • I’m getting closer to having a thesis for my #digitalanxiety notes — something about The Digital Person. It ties together: 1. “social media justice” (Travis’ phrase), the way people are now either good or bad — there’s no in between, 2. the way communicating digitally forces us into extremes for the sake of clarity, 3. forces us to speak to computers in the way they understand, 4. the way we’re compelled to brand ourselves and perform our lives — to be something specific, or risk being invisible, 5. how relying on digital systems forces us to do the mental work of the machines anyway — to understand how/why they inevitably fail.

  • We’re becoming 1s and 0s — if you haven’t won, you’re a zero.

  • These notes will eventually live at Notes on technology.

Shame Storm: The new frontiers of public shaming

  • “Shame is now both global and permanent, to a degree unprecedented in human history. No more moving to the next town to escape your bad name. However far you go and however long you wait, your disgrace is only ever a Google search away.”

  • “readers should refuse to click on [stories that have no value except humiliation]. It is, after all, the moral equivalent of contributing your rock to a public stoning.”

  • The click. It seems small, but on the Internet, it matters.

The Ringer: Mt. Washedmore, Appreciating Dirk Nowitzki, D-Wade, and Vince Carter

  • “Nowitzki has become a sort of inspirational avatar.… Dirk might not be out there doing it as well as he used to, but he is still out there doing it.”

  • Aging and basketball continue to be closely linked in my mind. There are still two current NBA players older than me (Dirk and Vince Carter).

  • Professionally, I guess the parallel here is that I’ve already ‘retired’ from doing the thing I set out to do when I was a kid (being a graphic designer) and transitioned into the second career (for me, teaching; for NBA players, commentating, coaching). The second career: 1. is not a young-person’s game (it’s a job where age and experience are assets), 2. will likely be a longer career phase overall, 3. is where I get to apply the things I learned earlier, but from a different perspective, and 4. where I get to help young people find their own way in the world. #jobs

  • Also, it’s a little bit of a relief for me to know that so many current (and some of the best) NBA players are also losing their hair.

LeBron giving his son a pep talk

Bumblebee Good™


This year, I spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas by myself, which I enjoyed.

Michael Clayton Good™

Bitsy: Christmas in Dino-Town, dinosaur cake-baking adventure

  • Designed based on a Secret Santa prompt of three words: dino, cake, static.

PICO-8: Advent Calendar 2018


L.M. Sacasas: Digital Media and Our Experience of Time

  • “the product of distraction is distractedness but also agitation and anxiety.”

  • “The fact that the speed of commerce and communication has dramatically increased also means that I have less reason to plan ahead and I am more likely to… fiddle with plans right up to the last second…. Consequently, our experience of time amounts to the experience of frequently repeated mini-dashes to beat a deadline”

  • “time appears as fundamentally paradoxical insofar as it is saved in ever greater quantities through the ever more refined deployment of modern technology and organizational planning in almost all everyday practices, while it does not lose its scarce character at all.”

  • “American Society is starving, not for food, of course, but for the ultimate scarcity of the postmodern world, time.… Starving for time does not result in death, bur rather… in never beginning to live.”

Bowel Movement: The push to change the way you poo

  • “One of the dizzying ironies of our time is that an earlier reverence for the trappings of civilization seems to be giving way to a pervasive distrust of modern habits and modern technology. Cars have ruined cities… and poisoned the atmosphere. Plastics have poisoned the seas. Deodorants and air fresheners have poisoned us. Antibacterial soap has led to the rise of superbugs. Your chair is killing you. So are your running shoes.”

David Mowatt (ducklingsmith), game designer

BeepBox, web-based music sequencer (song data stored in the URL)

I love the sunlight in my apartment.


Few things piss me off more than walking around a grocery store and not being able to find something I’m looking for.

Detectiveland, interactive text adventure

The Take: American Psycho, Fantasy vs. Reality

  • “the story is actually less interesting if we answer the question of whether this is real or happening in Bateman’s head.… American Psycho is not really a story about murder. It’s about yuppie culture, the melding of identity, and the craving to stand out from a superficial homogenized society.”

Deborah Higdon (buildings blockd), LEGO builder

Firefox: Tab Image Saver add-on

Crash Course Media Literacy: Copyright & Sharing

Game Maker’s Toolkit: Designing a Detective Game

  • “we can go one step further and just give the player the tools to point out contradictions and connections without first prompting them with a question.… [That way,] the player is no longer responding to the game…, but instead telling the game that they have spotted something interesting.”

  • Example: Detective Grimoire’s deduction system

The Pudding, visual essays on culture

  • The Structure of Stand-Up Comedy (Ali Wong)

  • “You get the same feeling when reaching the end of a great Seinfeld episode or any multi-plot story — the delight in seeing all the plotlines converge into one (and realizing that the storyteller was crafting a deeper idea all along).”

  • This is what I want my classes to feel like. #teaching

  • “story structure reveals… personal insight into the deepest patterns and motivations for how and why things happen in this world — [a person’s] map of life’s hidden order.” — Robert McKee

  • How Music Evolved: Billboard's Hot 100, 1958–2016

TED Talk: OK Go, How to find a wonderful idea

  • “for me, this is what it feels like to have an idea. It’s like they’re made of these disparate parts, these disparate chunks sort of floating out there. And if you’re receptive and you’re observant — and crucially, if you’re in exactly the right place — you can get them to just line up.”

  • “And when it does click, it doesn’t feel like you thought [of it], it feels like you found it — like it was a set of relationships that you unlocked.”

  • TED Talks, generally (the whole idea of it), have started to seem pretty pretentious to me.

Beatwave 3, music sequencer

  • I could play with this app (and apps like it) forever.


Smoothies are back! — another thing I’ve been looking forward to in the new apartment. #thenextphase

  • I took a two-year smoothie break (in the tiny apartment) because the NutriBullet makes a lot of noise. Am I too concerned with bothering other people in their apartments and too sensitive about them bothering me? Seems that way. #howdopeoplelive?

99% Invisible: Logo Design with Michael Bierut

  • “the thing that really bothered [fans about the new Big 10 logo] was their sense that giant, impersonal corporate forces were arbitrarily changing things that they cared about personally…. It’s a very satisfying target if you just think, ‘Somewhere up there, horrible people are messing with with something that I like, and now it’s ruined — I hate you.’”

The Favourite Not Great™

Absorbed by Light sculpture, at the Amsterdam Light Festival


The Take: Mad Men — Sally Draper, Baby Boomer

  • Sally was born the same year as mom (1955).

Elgin Park, a profile of Michael Paul Smith

  • “It’s almost like I got messages from my future self that said:… you’re going to make a difference, in your own little way, in the world.… Come to find out, the thing that I like to do the most — I put it out there — and it has changed so many people.”

Mary Poppins Returns Good™

The Ringer: Why ‘Fortnite’ Is Dancing All Over Carlton Banks and Drake

  • “It’s about the malleability of all culture, but it’s also about the social hierarchies that tend to determine who profits from cultural exchange, and who doesn’t. It’s about creative influence, but it’s also about power dynamics.”

  • What does Epic Games owe artists who inspire Fortnite Emotes?, interview with 2 Milly (about the Milly Rock)

It’s Centred That, “is the dot in the center of the shape?” game

Making custom records for the Fisher-Price record player

Bitsy: Squiddo Saves the World!, underwater creatures game

  • Designed based on a Secret Santa prompt of three words: magic, squid, adventure.


A Bitsy game made by Ethan about Nathan Hale, from the 5th graders’ Nonfiction Project.


A reminder that I’m getting older. One of the 5th graders (Luca) was working in GarageBand and figured out how to create a feedback loop. The students sitting near him were annoyed and covering their ears… but I couldn’t hear it. (!)

I’ve been working with high schoolers a lot this year (on the Robotics Team), which I’ve really (and unexpectedly) enjoyed. Another reversal of how I expected this to go (along with being surprised that maybe middle school isn’t my jam after all). The journey continues! #teaching

  • For instance, today was the last Robotics Team meeting, and it was sad to say goodbye to these kids. As much as I’ve regretted signing away eight hours of my week for the last 3½ months, I really connected with the students, and I’ll miss hanging out with them.

Survivor: David vs. Goliath Good™

  • I’m investing a lot less time in TV compared to 5–10 years ago (when I watched a lot of it). But for as long as I can remember, I’ve felt a sense of security with having some TV in my life — especially live TV: 1. I like having something to look forward to and schedule around, and 2. I like knowing that people are out there, either pushing the broadcast buttons or watching the same thing (at the same time) as I am.

  • “a big move”: doing something — not exactly because you want to — but because you want people to see you do it. (This is a common strategy on Survivor, where contestants are “building a portfolio” to convince the jury they deserve the $1,000,000 vote.)


Talking to a friend (Nick ZJ) about furniture in the new apartment, and I said that I’m feeling stuck in the continuum between minimalism and feeling comfortable. I have very little furniture right now (a bar-height chair and some bookcases) — and I like owning so little. But my apartment isn’t a comfortable place to be, physically. And the furniture that’d make this place feel most like a home (a mattress and a couch) are also the things that I appreciate not being burdened with at all.

Twist Shelf, wooden 2-in-1 shelf + magnetic board, free-to-use, pixelated video game assets

  • The students are having so much fun making micro:​bit games in MS Coding & Robotics (it’s been a blast for me, too). But the robotics stuff isn’t that interesting to me, and I could absolutely see switching this to a full-on game design class in the future.

micro:​mag, micro:​bit community magazine


A few weeks ago, I wrote a little rhyme to help kids remember the essential steps of wrapping up every Technology class (things they often forget to do, but are really important): “Leave no doubt, sign it out. And don’t forget: ⌘ + Q (quit).”. It’s really stuck in their minds, and it’s helping (I think).

  • My hope is for this to stay with them for a long time. It’s my version of “Save early. Save often.” Which has been stuck in my head since middle school technology class.

Radio Diaries: Matthew and the Judge (Juvenile Court)


The stomping upstairs neighbor returns. I was hoping this kind of thing wouldn’t be a problem in a nicer apartment (TBD: the home theater adjacent neighbor). But I guess this is what apartment life is like for anyone who isn’t on the top floor… everywhere? (I’ve been on the top floor in 2/3 of my past apartments.) Are other people not bothered by this? WTF. #howdopeoplelive?

micro:​bit: Matrix Code


The final guaranteed competition for [The Robotics Team]. If the we’d done well, the season would’ve been extended into next year. But we really blew it, and so this — gratefully — is the end. I’m good with it: 1. it’s been such a monkey wrench in my schedule that’s affected every part of my life, and 2. I think the outcome is proportionate to the team’s work — this feels fair.

Vox Lux Not Great™

An example of something that continues to bug me about the design industry: the way it creates these artificial boundaries between friends in the industry. I think it’s so fucking stupid.


With the 4th graders, did a lesson that dovetailed our last two topics: code your own emoji. I had students 1. complete tutorials on Kano Draw, 2. pick an emotion from a list I provided (one that I’ve used in 210/265 at UW), then 3. design an emoji to match by editing the code of a template I built on Kano.

  • This is another instance where I’m proud of having figured out a pretty sweet lesson — in spite of how little time I had to plan it. I woke up this morning knowing that I wanted students to solve some problem with code — but that’s it. In less than two hours before class, I decided on emoji, found/tested the tools, built the template, then posted it to Google Classroom.

  • This is not how I want to be planning lessons, though.

  • Also an instance of how collecting ideas/tools/links for later is really helpful for me. Awhile back, I’d saved this Kano emoji, which inspired the rest.

The emoji template.


Build Better Bricks: LEGO Skeeball machine


The MS Coding & Robotics kids are closing in on the end of their micro:​bit games. I wanted to give them direction on knowing when their game is finished, and it was a perfect opportunity to introduce the idea of juice (with this Game Maker’s Toolkit video).

  • I asked how they could make their games juicy, even with micro:​bit’s limitations. And they got it (sound effects, added graphics/animation).

  • Another crossover moment where something I’m doing/thinking-about at home becomes a part of my job — and my job is better for it. This wasn’t shoehorned-in. This video (and the concept of juiciness) made this project better.

The 5th graders are in the midst of their historical figure project, and they’re really excited about Bitsy (which Josh recommended) — half of them have chosen it as their tool, and I’m doing a Bitsy workshop today.

I’m recognizing that there’s an important threshold for me between 4th and 5th grade that affects how much I enjoy teaching in those classrooms. This year especially, I’ve been feeling more myself, having more fun, and doing better work in 3rd/4th grade vs. 5th.

  • There’s a pushing and pulling in the 5th classrooms that isn’t a factor in the younger grades — boundary-testing, self-centeredness, less respect, less enthusiasm for learning — and I get frustrated by it. I feel it in MS Coding & Robotics (which is 6th–8th), too — despite how much I’m enjoying that class overall.

  • Developmentally, this isn’t news to me — but I expected to enjoy working with 10–14 year-olds more (and the younger kids less) than I am. Objectively, I’m really fascinated by early adolescence (my thesis was exactly these ages!), my heart bleeds for how complex it is for them, and I really do like these kids individually. But based just on teacher-classroom dynamic, there’s a tension and distance that’s been hard for me.


I’m having so much fun with micro:​bit myself in MS Coding & Robotics. I wanted to demonstrate for students how to use loops and logic together to simplify some of the code they’ve been writing, so I built a little program called The Creeper.

One sprite lands randomly on the screen, and then a second sprite finds it.

This is my first time teaching coding (and robotics), and I’m working without a curriculum. I’ve been trying a looser style of lesson planning than I’ve used before, where I teach through the problems and questions that arise naturally during students’ projects — collecting their questions in a list, then researching and presenting a few answers a week. It’s been working super well.

GIF Brewery 3, GIF builder/editor

NYTimes: Bradley Cooper Is Not Really Into This Profile

  • “Though it is consistently pronounced dead, the celebrity profile, when done well, is a real tool for understanding ourselves and the world we occupy.… Some people are forthcoming. Some aren’t. Look carefully, though. The people who aren’t are telling their own particular story with their reticence.”


To explain what my CWA schedule feels like, I used the metaphor of a human cannonball: 1. it starts suddenly (I feel like I can’t get to school early enough [usually 7:00a], no matter when I wake up), 2. I feel pushed through the day (planning, classes, meetings, recess duties, other stuff, back-to-back), and 3. then I crash at the end (I usually leave school at 6:00p, after which, I don’t want to do much of anything productive personally, and I should be in bed by 10:00p to get enough sleep for the next day).

  • I love my job, but my days are so full that I feel constantly behind. I’m only planning for the very next class, answering important emails, and mostly ignoring my task list (even though I’m adding more to it every day).

  • I could spend more time at home working, but I refuse to. But in doing that, I’m sandwiching myself in the middle of rushed or inadequate planning. And (for the more flexible classes like MS Coding & Robotics and Digital Design Lab), I have a bunch of ideas that I don’t make happen because they don’t need to happen).


Ralph Breaks the Internet Good™ Not Great™

I’m doing laundry in my apartment! #thenextphase

Two things that do exactly what they promise to do: magic erasers and OxiClean.

  • This is a phenomenon I think about a lot: so few products actually fucking work the way they’re promised. Malfunction is the norm — working is the exception.

  • A perfect example: the “Get online before you unpack your first box” xfinity modem that was pre-installed in my apartment wasn’t working. I spent an hour on the phone and made a trip to the service center, only to figure out that my apartment had a wire disconnected the whole time.

  • It’s not just technology, though. The shower liner that I bought from Target is letting water through that’s pooling on the bathroom floor.

Another modern phenomenon: the I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t do that. In the midst of modem trouble-shooting, the xfinity store employee gave me a cable box that I didn’t want (I don’t own a TV) because they couldn't “find the right code” not to send me away with it. I feel so humiliated, bringing this thing home that I didn’t want or need (and said as much) because there was no corporate/technical protocol in place. #digitalanxiety


For a few days, I’ve been experimenting with ways I could go WiFi-less in the new apartment (using just my phone for Internet). Why? 1. it’s one less bill to pay and 2. one less subsystem to manage, but mostly, 3. it’s that I like the idea that my apartment would be a place where I could be away. So that I can read more and make more progress on long-awaited personal projects.

  • It’s not even that I’m wasting time online (the time I spend now is intentional, I get a lot out of it, and most of it is reading). But now that I’ve finally arrived at the next phase, it’s time to make space for the things I’ve been waiting to do — and that’ll mean less of the things I’m doing now. #thenextphase

  • But I decided to sign up for Internet after all: 1. trying to use my phone’s data with my MacBook feels comically impractical (I’m sure, by design), 2. Internet access underlies even the most basic, valuable things (updating this site, syncing lists to Dropbox, reading on my Kindle, using my smart bulbs), and 3. most personal projects I’m hoping to work on will require and eventually live-on the Internet anyway.

  • So, instead of creating a barrier between me and the Internet, I’ll need to make different choices. As much as I enjoy and value my time online now, I’m doing it partly because it’s easy — I’m procrastinating. Producing things (the personal projects I have in mind) is hard work.


A few times this week (Hour of Code in 3rd/4th grades, plus MS Coding & Robotics) I said that, “I enjoy coding because it’s problem-solving. The frustration you feel sometimes when you’re coding is why it’s fun. If coding weren’t hard, you wouldn’t feel as excited to eventually figure it out.

:​GAME ZIP 64, micro:​bit game console add-on

Awesome micro:​bit, list of resources


One thing I worry about (mildly) every day is wearing the same color combinations as other teachers. (Is this weird? I feel like other people must also worry about this?) At the beginning of the school year, I brought an extra sweater to keep in my office (a trick I learned from Mad Men). Which I used today for exactly this reason, and I’m so happy I did that. #howdopeoplelive?

  • In the last year, I feel like I’ve finally figured out how to buy/wear clothes that: 1. I feel comfortable in, 2. visually capture something specific about who I am, and 3. project (I hope) some awareness that these choices are intentional.

  • When I’m picking clothes for the day, I think about the same big ideas from Color & Comp and 265: color, contrast, texture, intentionality. It’s interesting that graphic design and fashion choices follow essentially the same set of rules. #design

“I love the Digital Design Lab.” — 2nd Grader (Molly)

Measuring the Filter Bubble: How Google is influencing what you click

SVG Crowbar, save SVG files from a website


This week in 7th grade science, students finished their Mousetrap Car videos, and the class is watching and reflecting on them together. The videos are… really good! Despite the dark middle part (where I inadvertently sandwiched myself between teaching and technology), the teacher (Riley) and I are both pleasantly surprised at how strong the students’ video choices are (academically and creatively), and how well the students are able to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each one. I’d say, no doubt, this project is (in the end) a success.

Insincere conversations and superficial chit-chat aren’t nothing to me. They make me think of much bigger things (justified or not): self-centeredness, loneliness, friendship, agendas, time, respect, realness.

  • Thinking about this after a party (the CWA holiday party) tonight. Which, since the move to Seattle, has been a pretty consistent way for me to feel after social event things.

This is a big moment for me: living in an apartment with a parking garage.


Micro Machine: a student’s younger sibling (especially one that looks like a smaller version of the same kid).

  • This is a fun dimension of my job, connecting the dots between students in my classes and their siblings at CWA (who I see in the hallways but don’t teach).

Superpoze: For We the Living Good™


I feel so much more comfortable in class this year, I’m having (even) more fun, and I’m managing the natural bumpiness with a new level of in-the-moment awareness and control. (Not perfectly, I still get tripped up and frustrated often enough.)

  • I’m proud of that, but one way I know it’s true is that I’ve developed really solid connections with the 3rd graders — who I just met at the beginning of the school year. Last year, 3rd grade was a sticky wicket for me (5th too), and it affected my ability to teach with the kind of enthusiasm and sincerity that are the defining characteristics of my best teacher self.

Signed up to teach a LS version of Coding & Robotics — which I’m looking forward to.

  • This’ll be another studio-style class (like the middle school version of C&R and the dDl). I enjoy the lesson-style classes (my weekly 3rd–5th classes) — a lot. But studios — where kids are learning mostly through creating/making/designing for themselves — are what really keep me going.

  • I already knew this, but the shift from teaching mostly studio classes (with the undergrads) to teaching mostly lessons (with the little kids) has been subtle enough that I needed a reminder.

The 1975: A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships Not Good™


Picked up the apartment keys! I have arrived, mother fucker! #thenextphase

  • This is the last checkmark: 1. a home that feels like a place an adult with their shit figured out lives, 2. a part of the country I feel comfortable in (weather-wise, politically, religiously), and 3. a job that matters, that I can do well, and that I enjoy (the criteria of A Good Day).

  • So what’s next? What’s the next next phase? Vancouver? Wife? Kids?

Faktum, neo-geometric (curved + angular) sans typeface

Select All: The Content Cycle, Tucker Carlson and Rudolph

  • The Content Cycle: 1. raw content (original social media posts), 2. aggregation (“processed and decontextualized into a frictionless and shareable content unit” by a larger outlet), 3. amplification (promoted and further decontextualized by noteworthy people), 4. cable news (responds to the decontextualized message), 5. reabsorption (social media reacts to cable news’ twisted understanding of its own, original raw content).

  • “It sustains not just major cable hosts like Carlson, but also HuffPost bloggers; not just aggregation-happy media conglomerates like Verizon Media Group, but also vast social networks like Twitter.… the Content Cycle demonstrates the deep, almost biological connection between the megaplatforms of the internet and legacy media like television, in a complex ecosystem of aggregation, outrage, performance, and attention.”


The Book of Life: How to be a good friend + video

MOCHUB, sets designed by LEGO fans, sold as complete kits

The Ringer: Cities That Amazon Left Behind

  • “Unlike the era in which Kodak excelled, both employers and employees now expect jobs to be temporary stepping stones, not lifetime commitments. Therefore workers are attracted to [cities] with ample opportunities in their field.”

  • I think it’s sad when people list the places they’ve worked in the past in their social media bio, as if ladder-climbing and stone-stepping are virtues. All the talk of ‘teams’, and this is just you, looking for the next best thing for yourself. It’s classic social media strategy: trading on those names, while simultaneously leaving them behind.

  • FUAY “formerly of” jobs list

Creed II Not Great™

  • “Kill they ass with success.”

iter8 or die November


This week, I committed to a new level of focus on classroom management, and I was able to leverage/create several moments that felt like successes. 1. In 4th and 5th grade, I did a role-playing exercise to address ‘talk-outs’: “Show me what not to do,” then “Show me what to do,” (a technique I learned from Cult of Pedagogy). And 2. in MS Coding & Robotics, I told them today, that, “When I have instructions on screen at the beginning of class, I expect you to follow them; when I’m speaking, I expect you to be listening; and when I ask you to close your screens, I expect you to close them”. #teaching #management

  • In every case, the kids recognized that this was important, and followed-through. The little kids even, clearly, enjoyed the exercise — they want to be held accountable. It’s heart-warming, slightly frustrating (that I need to break this shit down so far), and also pretty damned interesting, sociologically.

  • These specific problems didn’t evaporate immediately, but it’s a start. I feel better knowing we all care about figuring this out.

  • However, I haven’t seen any homeroom teacher remind — or need to remind — these students of the basics hand-raising technique. I still don’t understand why kids seem to talk more in my classes.

Also considering how my management problems may be due to some deeper issues: 1. in the way I communicate (I trend towards communicating vaguely), 2. in how my mind works (often, when I’m giving instructions or telling a story, I’ll skip fundamental steps and pieces), and 3. with my social anxiety (at times, feeling overwhelmed and thinking more about the situation than about what I’m saying or doing).

In 4th grade, I set my phone in the back of the class and recorded myself for most of a lesson, looking for ways I can improve management. Overall: 1. I think I’m doing a lot of things right, and 2. I’m happy to see that the way the classroom feels and the way I communicate match pretty closely with the way I imagined it did.

Unicode: Future Emoji Candidates + Unicode: Emoji Versions/Changelog

Techniques food photographers use


A student (Brent, in MS Coding & Robotics) asked if I have another job besides teaching earlier in the day. I think, because I wear button-up shirts and it looks like I’m not dressed for teaching? Which I’m taking as a compliment.

I’m still (intentionally) not replying to many text messages, or at least rarely replying right away — for three months, now. The most noticeable effect is that it’s dramatically reduced the number of texts I receive. In most cases, one un-responded-to text is all that it takes for someone to stop trying. Which seems low, I think. And which reinforces how anxiety-inducing texting is — you gotta reply to ’em all, or it’s over.

DJI Osmo Pocket, mini stabilized camera


iter8 or die

  • A lesson I did yesterday in 5th grade (introducing the digital tools for their Nonfiction Project about a historical figure: iMovie, GarageBand, Storyboard That, or Bitsy Game Maker) was Not Great™. But I covered the same content today in the other 5th grade class, and switched it up: 1. finding inspiration that was a better match for their project, 2. assigning inspiration to students to view in-depth before the discussion (which also, intentionally, got them moving around more), 3. clarifying a few details here and there (that weren’t clear enough yesterday), 4. asking better questions and making better connections, plus 5. being more intentional with classroom management all around (I’ve got to be more s.p.e.c.i.f.i.c.). And it was better. Quite a bit.

  • Also started the micro:​bit unit in MS Coding & Robotics this week. They’re designing games, and they (in the best way) have pretty complex concepts in mind. Today, I encouraged them to start with the smallest possible piece of their game, build on that, then build on that, and build on that. #design #teaching

A middle school teacher (Hoppin) and the middle school principal (Diane) have mentioned, unprompted, that the kids are really enjoying MS Coding & Robotics. I’m not sure how that info is making it back to them, but damn that just really warms my heart.

  • I’m also, totally, having a blast. It’s the fastest 45 minutes of my day (and kids are often legitimately shocked when I say time’s up). Several of them have said already that they want to sign up again next quarter.

  • I feel more myself in this class than I do in my 3rd/4th/5th classes. It’s a feeling I felt in Color & Comp, too, and there are some overlaps: 1. it’s my class, 2. I can speak more naturally (because they’re older), 3. there’s less disciplining and management to do (because they’re so internally motivated), 4. it’s an elective, and 5. they’re making really cool, creative shit that I’m genuinely excited about.

  • Not that this means I want to teach middle school exclusively (I love the little kids), but I’m so happy I got this opportunity.

Ian Hoy (DOGOD Brick Design), LEGO builder


One of the reasons I’d (potentially, theoretically) like to be a dad some day is that I think it’d be really interesting to participate in the life of a kid as they grow up, from an adult’s perspective this time. Is this a strange reason to want to be a dad? It feels a little self-centered, maybe? (That’s not the only reason, there are lots of ways I think being a dad would work for me.)

  • I’ve known the CWA kids for a year now, which is long enough to recognize that all the kids I teach have changed, undeniably, and in all kinds of ways. Growing up is a supremely fascinating thing to witness, and I really think I want more of that in my life. #growingup

A reason my classroom management has been bumpy lately may be pretty simple: I’m not planning for it. My management was much stronger at the beginning of the year, and I’m just realizing now that I was planning for it and haven’t been lately. For two reasons: 1. I’ve been crunched on planning time lately (and curriculum planning has to come first), and 2. at the beginning of the year, I was more intentionally trying to set expectations around how Technology class will (which, evidently, I can’t stop doing).

LEGO 7: Santa’s Snowboard, a companion to Santa’s Sports Car

micro:​bit game inspiration: 10 Arcade Clones + WarGames (2-player game)

  • Showed these today in MS Coding & Robotics. I absolutely love this device as a teaching tool — it’s the perfect balance of easy-to-get-started vs. tons-of-potential. That’s not easy to find.


Countdown to the new apartment: 1… week…!…?

I asked a 3rd grade teacher (Deanne) what strategies she uses to re-focus the class after lots of students start talking, and you lose them. She turned the question to her class: “With teachers you respect, how do they get your attention?” Two students answered: one used her as an example, and the other (Patrick) used me, saying “Mr. Sparano waits until we’re all ready.”

  • Which I do do, a lot. But it’s interesting — it doesn’t really feel like a strategy. And yet, seems like the students respond to it. And several teachers have mentioned that they’ve noticed and appreciate that I do that.

Google Sheets: Remove Blank Rows and Columns (and more!)


LEGO Ideas Muppets projects: The Muppeteers + 123 Sesame Street + The Muppet Show + Labyrinth

L.M. Sacasas: The Accelerated Life

  • “the surprising — and ethically disastrous — result [of living a life complicated by deadlines] is that individuals’ reflective value and preference orderings are not… reflected in their actions.… The priority of deadlines flips over into a primacy of deadlines, into an evaluative choiceworthiness that is not in line with the rest of the values that one otherwise professes…. Thus a restructuring of the order of values can result simply from time problems.”

  • It’s interesting to consider how everything I participate in — groups I belong to (friends, family, work), extracurriculars (Robotics Team, dDl, crosswalk duty), subscriptions (Patreon, Spotify), gadgets (MacBook, iPhone), background services (IFTTT, Google Calendar), communication channels (email, texting), bills (rent, insurance), stuff (car, apartment, clothes), healthcare (optometrist, dentist), finances (Simple, credit card) etc. — is a “subsystem [that requires] synchronizing and managing”. I’m always responsible to the next ‘deadline’, no matter how small.

  • Over the last few months (particularly the last month), I’ve done a bad job of prioritizing “life projects” and my “values… are not reflected my actions”. I’m excited about work, I do love my job — but work deadlines drive almost all of my decision-making. I’m not reading, exercising, meditating, or journaling. I want to do these things most days.

NYTimes: What’s All This About Journaling?

  • “My recommendation is to think of [journaling] as a life course correction. As opposed to something you have commit to doing every day for the rest of your life.”

  • I can expect, every day, that I’ll have a new set of thoughts and feelings that I’ll want to make sense of. It’s not that I journal regularly because I’m committing time for it, I journal regularly because I have so much on my mind. There isn’t enough time. And I’m not sure what (if anything) that’s an indication of.

  • “writing is fundamentally an organizational system. Keeping a journal helps to organize an event in our mind, and make sense of trauma. When we do that, our working memory improves, since our brains are freed from the enormously taxing job of processing that experience, and we sleep better.”

  • I’ve spent a good chunk of my Thanksgiving break catching up. Even if it’s a relatively unusual thing to be doing on vacation… it feels like the best possible use of my time. I feel anxiety build when I don’t take time to work though whatever’s on my mind. And when I do take the time (as I am, right now), I just feel better.

  • Journaling is the primary way that I manage my mental health. #journaling

Facebook Ad Archive, a report of who’s buying ads for political and public interest issues

Least-used Emoji Bot (@leastUsedEmoji)


Lessons from the Screenplay: The Devil Wears Prada, The first 10 pages


I hate cats. This weekend, I’m staying in a house alone with a kitten, (Frankie’s kitten Gus) and its clarified one of the many reasons I think cats suck. He’s doing this thing (that I’ve experienced with other cats) (Nick’s cat, Ivan) where at any moment, it might attack you, claws out. Maybe as you’re making the bed, it’ll stab your feet. Maybe as you’re standing in the kitchen, it’ll stab your leg. Maybe as you’re computing, it’ll stab your hands. At any moment. It’s incredibly anxiety-inducing, and I’ve just locked the little shit in the laundry room because I can’t handle it. Fuck off, man!

Vox: Netflix’s thumbnails are tailored to each user’s preferences

Game Maker’s Toolkit: Secrets of Game Feel and Juice

  • “juice is all about doubling-down on whatever your game is about.”

  • I first ran across the idea of juiciness in August. It captures a quality that I appreciate but haven’t really had the vocabulary to articulate. Juicy choices are unnecessary components of a design that reinforce the design’s primary goals. They’re the valuable version of special/shtick/gimmick (also unnecessary, but that don’t reinforce a design’s goals). #design

  • Juiciness is not the same as UX ‘delight’. Delight is a a trick — an add-on that has little-to-nothing to do with the goals of the design.

  • Juicy choices leverage the unique opportunities of the medium they’re designed with. They do things only that design in that medium could do. There are no choices left to make. These designs are executed so thoroughly that they’re bursting at the seams (i.e. juicy). Which connects back to how I’ve discussed this principle with students in the past: in feeling finished/complete.

  • What else can be juicy (and what do they double-down on)? 1. gadgets: Pebble (low/hi-techness), 2. movies: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (memory-loss-ness), Ocean’s Eleven (hiest-ness), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (video-game-ness), 3. TV shows: How I Met Your Mother (love-story-ness), 4. books: The Jolly Postman (printed-storybook-ness), 5. LEGO builds: Santa’s Snowboard (goofy-intricate-ness).

Pixel Gustavo: Home Alone poster


I’ve had a rough few weeks of teaching, and I’ve lost some confidence. I feel like the things I’m stumbling through are overshadowing (in the eyes of the other teachers) the things I continue to well. So, for my own sake: here’s a list of things I think I’m good at, that I think I’m better at than most teachers anywhere: 1. being enthusiastic and genuinely interested in them (the kids love me!), 2. encouraging new ideas and creative thinking, 3. designing fun and interesting lessons, and 4. with content that’s relevant to what kids are actually interested in.

Will Schoder: Cartoons and The Great American Joke

  • The Great American Joke: “The constant gap between American ideals and American realities,… between mundane circumstance and heroic ideal, material fact and spiritual hunger, theory of equality and fact of social and economic inequality, between what people would be and must be.” — Louis Rubin Jr. #goals

  • “many critics have argued that these shows inevitably lead to nihilism in the public sphere — that making fun of everything results in a total disillusionment toward our institutions.… [But] underneath all their snark, parody, and biting criticism, there’s a hope for something better, some new kind of truth that exists in the middle of The Great American Joke.”

  • This is helpful for me. I loathe snarkiness and Family Guy jokey-cynicism for exactly this reason: I worry what’ll happen when nothing is taken seriously. But seeing it as (maybe) a reflection of hope (highlighting the ways that our ideals don’t match our current realities — and how they might improve) feels more positive. Maybe.

Citizen Brick: Home Alone minifigs

Studio, LEGO 3D modeling and instruction-builder

Game Maker’s Toolkit: Point and Click Puzzle Design

  • Satisfying (non-frustrating) puzzles: 1. provide clear goals, 2. use signposting [clues], 3. give feedback [on the player’s attempts].”

  • The Last Express, real-time adventure game on the Orient Express

Oliver: Full Circle Good™


History of the LEGO Modular Buildings: The Classics (Part 1) + The Golden Age (Part 2)

  • I love the Modular Buildings. Mostly, because of the interiors — which is a theme that runs across lots of things I’m interested in: tiny, enclosed, self-sufficient little worlds. #pleasurepoint

  • At one point, I owned 9/10 of the Modulars that were available at the time. But I sold several last year, having decided that I just wasn’t into some of them. It felt like a significant step for me, being OK with having an incomplete collection of something.

The stairs on the Big Bang Theory are just one flight

  • I thought so!

Game Maker’s Toolkit: Breath of the Wild, Designing an open world adventure

  • “Like any good game, everything should work together to contribute to a specific experience. And in [BotW], the level of freedom you provided, the focus on exploration, the use of cryptic clues, the daunting enemies, and the consistence of prizes all add up to give Breadth of the Wild a truly adventurous spark.”

  • I’m a huge fan of GMTK, but I’m not playing any games right now — and really, very few over the last decade. But when I watch these videos, I think about teaching and learning.

  • Designing an open world game is, I think, a useful analogy for the ideal classroom experience: freedom, exploration, clues, challenges, and rewards. Learning that is (like a well-designed game) self-motivated, goal-oriented, satisfying, interesting, and fun. #teaching

  • “Here’s an example…” — A defining feature of my favorite video essays (Game Maker’s Toolkit, Lessons from the Screenplay, ScreenPrism) are the liberal use of examples. Which is another connection back to teaching.

Survivor: Pendulum Challenge

The Witness Good™


Raised by YouTube, The future of children’s television

  • “Because quality is hard to measure, the numbers that exist are the ones that describe attention, not effect: views, watch time, completion rate, subscribers.”

Vladimir Tomin, animator and augmented reality artist

Progress Bar, menubar app inspired by @year_progress

  • 93% progress to the new apartment!

Will Schoder: The Zeigarnik Effect, Why it’s so hard to leave things incomplete

  • “Delegating open loops to paper significantly dampens the mental strain…. In other words, the simple act of planning lets your subconscious chill out and stop intruding on your conscious mind.”

  • I write everything down (usually with Drafts or Pebble dictation, eventually always ending up in FoldingText). I like to think of myself as a person who is pretty good at figuring things out, and I think this is a reason why — my subconscious is always free for problem-solving (instead of trying to remember things).

WebTorrent, streaming torrents

From the parking garage at the Tacoma Dome Station. I really like Tacoma.


Countdown to the new apartment: 2 weeks.

Kemerling: Again, on Facebook

  • “In its vision, [a tech/startup] proclaims it’s doing world-changing stuff that’s making a real difference in the lives of everyone who comes into contact with their mighty product/idea. Yet on the flip side, when something goes awry, the tepid response deflects any notion of responsibility because they are in no way in the business of effecting the real world lives of anyone who comes into contact with their inconsequential product/idea.”

  • “The lesson in all of this, establish your ethics, and then hold firm. Because without them, you’re just an asshole trying to make a quick buck, regardless of the consequences.”

Just this week, I was thinking that I might’ve identified one of the big, underlying patterns in the things that I’m frustrated by (which I’m collecting in FUAY): the promise vs. the intent/goal. I’ve got a deep (deep) allergy to situations where one thing is promised (and often actually delivered) — but the producer/seller’s intent in the exchange is something else. The people involved aren’t buying and selling the same thing. It’s a misalignment of goals — a taking-advantage-of one person’s wants/needs for another person’s benefit. And it’s designed to be that way.

  • Examples: 1. Likes (promise: connection/positivity vs. intent: analytics/surveillance), 2. advertising (promise: fantasy vs. intent: selling stuff), 3. sensational news (promise: newsworthy info vs. intent: attention), 4. loyalty programs (promise: savings vs. intent: analytics/surveillance), 5. networking (promise: interpersonal connection vs. intent: business transaction).

  • I don’t think all business exchanges fall into this category. It feels fair for (for instance) a book-seller who loves books to sell books to people who love to read — where the buyer and seller are exchanging the same thing. And it’s bigger than bullshit (where the goal is specifically about attention). And it’s different from a lie (because the consumer often does get a version of what they wanted).

  • Facebook’s goal was never… ever to actually give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. Its goal has always been to build a business based on leveraging its users’ attention and data.

A Private War Good™

Jon Hopkins: Singularity Not Great™

Mike Caulfield: Designing Organizations for an Information Rich World

  • “information technology allows effort to be displaced from possession, storage, and accumulation of information to its processing…. In an information-rich world, most of the cost of information is the cost incurred by the recipient. — Herbert Simon

  • “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” — Herbert Simon

The Book of Life: How to make people feel good about themselves

  • “We tend to operate with the view that the best way to please people is not to bother them too much.… But… we like to be bothered.… we have a powerful urge to feel helpful.”

  • “The dominant societal story is that we work strictly for ourselves: for our status and our financial benefit. But… what really makes our work feel exciting and meaningful is the power it gives us to help other people.… when it affords us a feeling that we have, over the course of the day, managed to appease the suffering or increase the pleasure of another person.”

The Book of Life: How to approach strangers at a party

  • “[Shyness’] essential assumption is that other people are self-sufficient, that they do not lack for company, that they are not alone with anything, that they understand all they need to know”

  • “This lack of faith in the humanity of others is a natural tendency of our minds.… Our error is to suppose that the way a person seems [on the outside] is the whole of who they are: our anxiety closes off the core fact that we are all much more approachable than we seem.”

  • “We forget that we also give off few signals as to what we’re really like.”


Perusing the MoMA catalog has become a real holiday tradition.

UTDESIGN, Pebble watchfaces

Digital Watch Library

deadmau5 music production making-of videos

Sync, broadcast text/images to multiple devices, anonymously


With the 7th grade science Mousetrap Car video project, I’ve gotten myself into some hot water. Transferring videos from devices to laptops has been trickier than I planned for, and I’ve needed to solve multiple technical problems I didn’t see coming.

  • But, to me, this isn’t really a problem. Improvising and finding workarounds is integral to the process of teaching. It’s fun! It’s a reason I enjoy it, and it’s happened countless times in my teaching career. 1. I don’t think any reasonable amount of planning could reveal what will happen when you unleash an idea onto a group of people, and 2. I believe (absolutely) that, in a classroom, you teach something once to know how to teach it.

  • Still, a few people (Lauren, Holly, and Riley) are frustrated with me for not seeing those complications in advance. And this is the kind of situation I need to be more careful of when I’m teaching with other teachers.

  • Also, a big reason I’m so willing to try new things in class is that I’m good at improvising. I can usually solve these problems in the moment. (And in this project, I have.)

Widows Not Great™

The Book of Life: The benefit of analogies

  • “[We should keep] our minds well-stocked with knowledge from other disciplines, whatever domain we happen to be in. Engineers should… spend a good amount of time reading poetry, poets cookery books, cookery writers economics manuals and so on.”

Becoming Anne Frank, The origin of the world’s most famous Holocaust victim

I Found the Best Burger Place in America. And Then I Killed It.

  • “In the digital age, where every bit of information is available at any point in time and that overwhelming fact alone can render any person frozen in indecision for weeks, the study found things that allow us to make decisions faster, like lists, also make us happier.”

  • “the people crowding the restaurant were one time customers. They were there to check off a thing on a list, and put it on Instagram. They weren’t invested in the restaurant’s success, but instead in having a public facing opinion of a well known place.”

  • “is this just what we are now — a horde with a checklist and a camera phone, intent on self-producing the destruction of anything left that feels real, one Instagram story at a time?”


One of the most pleasant surprises about working with kids is that they seem to really enjoy saying my name. I hear it so many times every day. I think they think it’s cool? Anyway, it’s a nice feeling.

  • A couple of the 3rd graders (Harmony and Ayla) figured out that my first and last names rhyme with each other. Which I don’t remember thinking about before. Is that possible?

The last 3 weeks has been the most time I’ve spent in middle school classrooms as a teacher (through MS Coding & Robotics and the 7th grade science video project). So, how’s it going? Good™. I’m having fun, the kids are cool, the classes are full of energy. The students can handle more freedom and responsibility, and they have way stronger ideas, creatively. But I’m not enjoying it as much as I anticipated I wouldand I’ve been anticipating this for awhile. It’s a tricky energy — it’s more chaotic, more self-involved, and it’s even harder to create moments when everyone in the room is on the same page.

  • They’re at the age when they’ve started to protect themselves, to create those walls, to perform. When it first enters their minds that they might be too cool for school. It’s interesting (sociologically), but the experience feels less about what it is: the process of learning to learn.

  • I do enjoy these classes. And these things aren’t true for every student. And I’m sure my understanding and appreciation for this age will continue to evolve. But if I had to choose elementary or middle right now: it’d be elementary, hands-down.

Favorite final project (from Brent & Vivian) in MS Coding & Robotics. The challenge was to “design a dancing robot”, and this was designed around Yellow Submarine.

Middle schoolers presenting their robots to the 2nd graders. I love mixing grades like this.

Gall’s law: “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.” — John Gall

Flag Stories, infographics about the world’s flags

Inside Art interview on NET, my interview with Brent Lubbert in 2010 (starts @ 7:55)

  • I’d forgotten about this!


NYT Popcast: What makes for a great celebrity profile?

Surreal Puzzle Art, combining different puzzles cut from the same pattern

The Google Pixel 3 Is A Very Good Phone. But Maybe Phones Have Gone Too Far.

  • “This is a great phone. I highly recommend it. But it’s no longer totally clear to me that the information systems we’ve built to help us navigate life are net beneficial to society. I mean, I think they are. But, Jesus. Jesus. What’s happening to us?”

Trying a new strategy for tracking students’ robot progress: asking them to set goals and holding them accountable on the board.


Fixture, 19th century sans typeface

Simple: Expenses, budgeting for upcoming bills

  • The new apartment is going to be a bigger chunk of my paycheck than I’ve paid for rent in the past, so I’ll need to keep a closer eye on my spending than usual. I’m OK with it, though — it’s a trade-off I’m happy to make.

  • Budgeting sounds fun, actually? I like the idea of being forced (forcing myself) to work inside of constraints.


Countdown to the new apartment: 3 weeks.

In 3rd grade, did a keyboarding demo where I closed my eyes and typed sentences on screen that the kids volunteered. For the last one, I lifted my hands off the keyboard and said, “Thanks to the F and J keys, even with my eyes closed, I know …”, then found home row and typed, “… where they are.” The kids thought that was pretty cool. One of them said, “Drop the mic!”

So far this school year, I’m really enjoying teaching the 3rd graders. 4th are still my favorite, and 5th is going well (and is in no way the slog it was last year). But 3rd grade — as I continue to learn to manage a group of 8-year-olds and learn to appreciate that these classes are at least 50% about learning to be a student at all — has become unexpectedly fun.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Good™

  • I will almost always fall asleep watching animated movies. Even ones (like this one) that I’m enjoying and (in this case) have been waiting 20 years to watch on the big screen.


SearchCam, search printed text

ISTE Creative Constructor Lab, Day 2

  • This is a conference for teachers, mostly on the creative use of technology in classrooms, but word “design” has been used so many times. So many.

  • Students help victims of Hurricane Harvey restore lost memories (with Adobe Creative Cloud)

  • “[Fade to black]… Adobe.”

  • Adobe sponsored this conference, and they’re here to sell Adobe stuff (which is totally fine). But does the company actually give a shit about education and creativity? Maybe. But it’s impossible to know. No matter what they have to say about teaching, learning, and making the world a better place, it’s all filtered through their commercial goals. And that’s true even if they truly, also give a shit about the more valuable things. I can’t take them seriously.

  • On my way out of the conference, I said to Ben Smith (who did a workshop yesterday on designing projects that “elicit creativity from students”) that, “I hope to have as many innovative ideas in my career as you’ve had. You’re an innovative teacher. It’s inspiring.”

In Seattle for the conference. Do I miss living here? I love the city, I love the idea of it. But I can say with confidence now that living in a smaller city really does work better for me.

I wish it was OK to say, “Oh, I see. You’re one of those people that likes to hear themselves talk. I’m going to bail out of this ‘conversation’ now. Later.”

I Know Where Your Cat Lives, geolocated, publicly-posted photos


ISTE Creative Constructor Lab, Day 1

  • Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, a quantifiable method for measuring five dimensions of creativity: fluency of ideas, originality, elaboration, abstractness, and resistance to closure.

  • The main reason I decided to do this was because I suspected that teaching conferences could be a great way to meet women I tend to be interested in (teachers).

  • Did that strategy pay off? No. Lots of attractive teachers… but very little positive feedback. Women rarely flirt with me, anywhere. It’s hard. At times, I feel so invisible and unattractive. It gets to me.

  • That said, I tend to feel this way in Seattle (where this conference is) and not in Tacoma. Which sounds like an absurd simplification. But it’s true. The difference is dramatic.

  • I think, almost certainly, if I end up in a long term, family-building kind of relationship some day, it’ll almost certainly be with a teacher. 😎

  • FUAY swag, junk for the sake of self-promotion

The Ringer: Caption Goals, Instagram’s caption-writing industry


Did the Emoji Name lesson with the 4th graders again (did this in 4th grade last year, too).

  • This lesson has been really influential in how I approach my job. Asking questions that help kids reveal (for themselves) the hidden dimensions of how things work and why things are designed they way they are.

  • The name I picked for myself was 😎🍕🥊🍪🏀🎒.

Just realizing that the keys for the cut/copy/paste keyboard commands (⌘ + X/C/V) are all next to each other on the keyboard! Which explains why the key for paste is V (I think).

Played my first game of Bump (aka Knockout) ever, with the 5th graders during recess. Even though we were all competing against one another, the kids were rooting for me to win(?!), despite us playing on 8-foot hoops, where it’s pretty easy for me to score. Life-affirming and super fun!

Pixels Huh (Octavi Navarro), pixel illustrator

waneella: Little Tokyo bar with neon lights

  • One of the first things I want to do in the new apartment is figure out how to display something like this on the wall, digitally, just looping in the background.

Two 4th graders (Luke and Kyle) have been working on micro:​bit projects in the Digital Design Lab. This morning at Town Meeting, I officially unveiled the dDl to all students and showed their project as an example.

  • One of those students (Luke) is trying to make an app that’ll send custom messages between micro:​bits. It’s a big project, but he’s making progress. (This is him having figured out how to move the LED around, which he’s planning to use as method for selecting letters). Helping him through this project has been really fun for me, too — I can see him discovering his interest-in and aptitude-for coding.

During Town Meeting, Nick introduced me as a person who “has lots of ideas”, which is one of the best compliments I can imagine.

Cult of Pedagogy: The Danger of Teacher Nostalgia


The Work Behind the Work: Nirvana’s Nevermind cover


One week into MS Coding & Robotics. When people ask how it’s going, I’ve been saying, “FUN! It’s the fastest 45 minutes of my day.” And it is. The time flies by, and the kids really want to be there.

  • Although, this introduces a new teaching problem, where 1. time goes by so quickly, and I want every class to include some studio/work time (and the kids really want that, too) that 2. it’s hard to make space for a teaching a traditional lesson (right now, introducing LEGO Mindstorms skills and concepts) in the way I’m used to.

Some of the Robotics Team kids (who’ve been having a hard time figuring out how to pronounce my name) (Arianna and Jayden) have given me a new nickname: “Spicy Oregano”.


I taught one of the sloppiest and least valuable lessons so far at CWA (in 5th grade, about memes — the Like Economy experiment, even ). And I’d just come from a 7th grade lesson where I made some other sloppy mistakes (introducing iMovie). I didn’t do justice to the material, I was confusing, I wasn’t asking particularly helpful questions or making the connections I normally would. My brain isn’t working well. I’m tired.

  • I’ve been working 50–60-hour weeks (normally, I’m at school by 7:00a and I leave at 6:00p) — not cool, but manageable. But this and next week will be 70–80 hours (including my weekends, where I have and ISTE workshops, plus a Robotics Team competition) — exceptions, but I’ve evidently gone beyond a threshold of time spent working (or thinking/worrying about work).

  • I decided yesterday (while choosing to watch TV before bed instead of preparing for today) that it’s OK for me to be a C-level teacher sometimes. I refuse to give all of any day to any job. But this was rough.

  • I’ve said this before, but one tricky aspect of my job (as a specialist teacher) continues to be that other teachers are almost always in the room. I don’t get the opportunity to have a rough day in private anymore (like I could at UW), and I feel less comfortable experimenting/prototyping lessons (which has become fundamental to how I teach. I’m always under the watch of people who are better than I am at doing what I’m doing, and that can be hard and embarrassing sometimes.

Christoph Niemann: Abstract Sunday, Vote! (pencil)

Xavier Ramonède: Breeze


Introduced my MS Coding & Robotics class to design today, with this slide. I said: “A is where you are today. B is where you want to be in the future. Everything in between [I drew a line on the whiteboard between the letters] is design. And you can’t design unless you decide first what it is you’d like to achieve.” Then segued them into making plans for their first project (a dancing robot).

I walked into my 3rd grade class this morning without a lesson ready — planning to just use some fallback activities. As I was connecting my laptop, two students (Jenner and Raj) asked about changing their Google profile pictures. Which inspired a lesson about profile pics, that I improvised, on the spot:

  • Together, 1. we looked at a few CWA teacher/student profile pics and briefly discussed the ideas that came mind from the images — and how those ideas (being adjacent to a name) are connected to those people, 2. we discussed how each person’s interpretation of our profile pictures will be different based on their own experience (and demonstrated that by allowing several students to share their thoughts on one student’s selected image), 3. I gave all of the students time to search for a new image for themselves, 4. had each student listen to feedback from a partner about the interpretation of that image, and 5. showed students the steps for saving the image to their profile.

  • It was a pretty dope lesson! No one knows I was making it up on the fly, and no one would know — it was solid. I’m not proud of having let that happen. But also, I am proud of having figured it out.

Also today, in 7th grade science, I taught a lesson about copyright with a true/false quiz about common copyright misconceptions, followed by a discussion of their answers (which were, expectedly, mostly wrong). An idea I had this morning when I woke up and built before class. Which the students seemed to enjoy and be legitimately curious to learn about.

The Take: Mad Men — Megan Draper, The False Promise

  • “it’s really about the choice between, ‘Do you want to deal with who you are, and live with that?’ or ‘Do you want to think about the person you could be in the future and you are becoming?’” #design

Also today, met with my supervisor (Holly) to discuss the class she observed me teach (a 5th grade meme lesson) — my first class observation ever (I think). This was a harder discussion than I expected.

  • “Joe, YES you are absolutely setting a positive tone. :) You have an air of ease, joy, understanding, empathy, curiosity, enthusiasm, and a genuine interest in the kids and what they think. That very clearly comes through in your teaching.”

  • She passed along a tip from when she started teaching: no matter what expectations I know (or assume) students might have in other classes, “they don’t know what my expectations are” until I tell them.

  • She said, “People like working with you.” I told her that it’s important to me to play a part in improving how the whole system (the school) works, and she responded, “That’s probably your design background.” Which is a pretty interesting observation!

  • She also said, “You are so interested in what kids think and what they have to say. You have teaching greatness in you.”

  • But implicit in this is that I’m not a great teacher now (I don’t even think I am, but I guess I thought I was close, maybe?). We both acknowledged that my classroom management needs work. But I care so much, and I put so much energy into my job, and it’s hard to hear that I’m obviously not there yet.

  • We also had a sticky conversation about memes and racism. She suggested that I should have a class discussion about racism (because she noticed racist memes in the images students collected during my lesson). I told her I didn’t feel comfortable leading that discussion, and she said, “Then I question your choice to teach a lesson on memes.”

  • Which is frustrating for a few reasons: 1. there are lots of dimensions to how someone could be offended by a meme: religion, gender, nationality (why isolate racism?), 2. any kind of message online could contain racist content (racism isn’t exclusively a meme problem), 3. she’s exaggerating the number of racist memes in that collection, 4. I’m way more attuned to the kinds of memes the kids are actually into (which are hilariously benign and very 5th grade appropriate), 5. she seems to be fundamentally biased against memes — but the kids love them, and this lesson is a way for me to acknowledge and integrate something they hold dear.

Countdown to the new apartment (for real this time): 4 weeks.


This school year, I’ve been working on the weekends pretty regularly (sometimes a little, sometimes a lot). But every weekend. It’s a manageable amount, but [The Robotics Team] is magnifying the problem. I’m losing 7–8 hours of my workweek (2½ hours × 3 days). And today (Sunday), we have a competition, which is another 5 hours.

  • I’m feeling those missing hours. The first things to go are: 1. taking a break (I’m not reading, watching movies, or exercising as much as I want/need to be), 2. personal projects (I’m way behind on journaling, again — and email, jesus), 3. CWA email (christ!) and my Tasks list (CWA.txt), and 4. planning time (I’m always prepping for the next class until the last possible moment). My teaching isn’t as sharp as it was at the beginning of the school year, and I’m generally feeling on-edge.

  • One drawback to teaching (compared to being a graphic designer) is that most days have a deadline — I have to prepare something for every class. There are rarely days when I can just show up and work lackadaisically.

L.M. Sacasas: The Society of the Disciplinary Spectacle

  • disciplinary spectacle: a society where behavior is controlled: 1. by the possibility that you’re being watched (disciplinary surveillance) — e.g. CCTV, a prison, and 2. because you’ve witnessed the results of someone else’s wrong-doing (spectacle) — e.g. public torture, shaming.

  • “[Thanks to digital technology, for the first time,] the instruments of surveillance and the instruments of the spectacle are often identical.”

  • So, in choosing to broadcast their lives, people are choosing to have their own behavior publicly regulated.

  • “it is the self that we are producing so that we might more fully participate in the spectacle, [so] we experience a double alienation from world and from ourselves. Our efforts to heal this alienation… only aggravates the condition and further feeds the machinery of surveillance. The quest for authenticity is the quicksand of the disciplinary spectacle.”

  • “the discourse is no longer a monologue (we are no longer in the age of mass media), it becomes a cacophony of monologues sometimes bound by resurgent tribal associations. The discourse also becomes keenly aware of itself. The laudatory tone is replaced by agonistic irony.”

Scott Martin (Burnt Toast): Social Media series — 🙂

Did you even realize daylight saving time ended last night?

  • “Instead of being prompted by the media to make the switch, our phones and computers do it automatically…. The more connected we are, the less necessary it is to even realize that daylight saving time even exists. This smoothing-over of an ungainly task is [helpful] on a lot of levels… but it’s also a reminder that as we become increasingly reliant upon the internet to help us get shit done, we subtly cede control over our own lives, sacrificing agency for a little hit of convenience.”

Mid90s Good™

  • “Try hard. Be corny.”


CSS: Using HSL color (hue, saturation, lightness)

HTML soft hyphen (&​shy​;), hyphenate words selectively when needed, while hiding the hyphen when those words fit on one line.

Adafruit: IoT Thermal Printer

  • Considering ways to move Tasks.txt to paper. How cool would it be if every task printed as a small piece of paper, instead of items on a digital list?

  • Very cool. How reliable would it be (as an internet-connected gadget that requires multiple physical and digital things to work seamlessly together)? Almost certainly not very.

NYTimes: Hikikomori, Japanese people who’ve withdrawn from social life

MOD Pizza: Kevin — pumpkin (as the sauce!), arugula, mozzarella, canadian bacon, hot peppers, balsamic, fig glaze

Mike Caulfield: How to Teach Online Information Literacy to Older People


Passwords, day 2 with the 4th graders. I’m happy with how enthusiastically the kids responded to this unit — despite how dry it seems as a topic. Part 1 was a blast. And today, 1. I had students build strong passwords (using RoboForm) and reverse-engineer the qualities that define a strong password. We also 2. looked at the common passwords (on Wikipedia) and identified why they were weak. And 3. I showed them my Firefox Monitor results and discussed the value of using unique passwords on every site.

The two kids who’ve been visiting the Digital Design Lab most often (Luke and Kyle) have started calling it “the dDl”. Which is just cool, that this activity has become a thing in their minds.

In MS Coding & Robotics, it’s been tricky to get students to stop talking when I’m addressing the whole class. Today, I felt the need to say, “I’d appreciate your attention when I’m speaking.” I said it with a smile on my face, and it did re-orient them to listening. But I hate that this has to be a moment — that I have to ask for their attention. I don’t know if this is normal. I don’t know if I’m doing/not-doing something that’s affecting my students’ capacity to pay attention. It’s so hard! I feel like a failure, professionally. But I also feel like a failure, personally. That I don’t command (deserve?) respect automatically. It gets to me. #teaching

Vox: When nature goes viral

  • I’m still thinking about how social media (and Instagram specifically) encourages people to leverage other people/places/things for their own gain. (I’ve written about before.)

  • In what way, though? A photo taken for social media mutates the relationship between the person with the camera and the subject of the photo. I don’t believe it’s possible to post something to social media without thinking about the potential (social) gains from posting it. So, when a photo is taken with the intent of sharing it, there’s _a person who’s using + a person/place/thing being-used_ (for likes, as content).

Wikishirts, a t-shirt of any wikipedia entry

Lessons from the Screenplay: Shaun of the Dead, Building a world to serve the character


“The way creativity is used today ‘feeds the notion that the world and everything in it can be monetized.’… creativity has become a means to rent, sell, or offer subscriptions to something that was once free or otherwise disconnected from the profit motive.” — Real Life Magazine

When I tell people I’m a teacher, they’ll almost always ask, “What do you teach?” Which I appreciate. #ofwhat?

Thirty-nine October


First day of my middle school MS Coding & Robotics class. Fun!

  • Right off the bat, one of the biggest changes I’m noticing teaching middle schoolers (vs. younger kids) is that I don’t have to work as hard to communicate with them. I can speak more naturally — I don’t have to gear down as far, which really makes a difference.

  • I’m so stoked about — finally — having my own class at CWA! There’s no other teacher in the room. This is my space, my norms, my learning experience to design and iterate on. This is the style of teaching I’ve had for so many years (with undergrads), and I felt so comfortable walking into that room today. Stoked!

I had students build microscale scenes of where they’ll be in 20 years. A perfect and fun ice-breaker. They also really enjoyed the microscale inspiration I showed beforehand.

These were all pretty sweet, and insightful. My faves: airplane hanger + observing the universe + courtroom + ultra modern apartment

  • This was a special full-circle moment for me. I did a LEGO microscale challenge (with the same set of bricks) in the Problem-Solving 101 class at College for Teens in Omaha, the summer of 2012. That was a prototype of a classroom experience I was really curious to try (and ended up really enjoying) — teaching design to younger kids. This MS Coding & Robotics class is a really similar kind of thing, and it’s my job now! #teaching

FUAY adult Halloween costume

  • For kids, I get it. As much as one-time costumes feel embarrassingly wasteful, dressing up does seem like a real opportunity for kids to explore and communicate who they are and what they’re into.

  • But adults are too self-aware and know too much about how the world works. Wearing costumes seems, to me, like less of a genuine exploration and more of a weird, competitive performance.


I started at CWA a year ago today.

  • Man, oh man, have I learned a lot about teaching and working with kids in the last year.

That said, my classroom management isn’t as sharp as it was at the beginning of the year. I’m in a funk. I started strong, but I’m definitely losing ground, and my whole experience during a lesson cascades downward from there.

  • Maybe the biggest mistake I’m making is that I’m not revisiting management often enough (transitions, talk-outs, closing lids, raising hands, etc.). Stuff I covered at the beginning of the year… then assumed they’d remember.

  • But they don’t remember. They do not. I need to recommit to that management sharpness.

  • Management was difficult last year, too. But there’s a new layer this year. I know the students really well, and the kids like me. They love me!

  • Talking this through with the teachers, I’m learning that the students act differently in my classes than they do in their homerooms. All three grades have mentioned this. And 5th grade actually developed a management strategy called Gimmie Five (five listening decisions they want students to remember — which has been effective) as a response to their behavior in my classes (not exclusively, but I guess my class was the tipping point).

  • So, it’s me. Or it’s the screens. Or both.

  • I want more compliments from teachers. I know, when I’m teaching, the other teachers in the room are paying attention. If they don’t acknowledge that things went well, I assume that means things didn’t go well. And I want to manage the class well enough to earn those acknowledgements.

  • To no one in particular: teaching kids with screens in front of them is fucking hard. And way fucking harder than teaching with a sheet of paper.

Kawhi Leonard steals the ball from Ben Simmons. Announcer says: “Simmons… is over-handling…, trying to do too much. Let the game come to you a little bit.” #basketballquotes

  • This is maybe my problem. I’m trying to do too much — focusing on accomplishing tasks and missing opportunities to teach and manage through the situations that happen naturally during the lesson.

Robyn: Honey Not Great™

Free Technology (Tools) for Teachers blog

Google Drive: Type ‘’ to start a new Google Doc

Hello! I am an award-winning creative leader with 20 years experience reimagining what's possible for leading global brands. Focusing on building interdisciplinary creative teams, I have helped organizations tackle daring challenges and build affinity with their customers that drive successful business outcomes.

  • This is the most design industry bullshit I’ve ever seen in one paragraph — awards, leader, brands, interdisciplinary, teams, businessy business. If it were in 3rd-person, it’d be perfect. {#BS}

The Movie Assassin, on writing movie reviews


The NBA is back, and as has been the case for the last few years, I’ve been looking forward to it. It’s more than the games for me (I don’t actually watch the games that closely, and I’m still learning the nuances of the gameplay). I do watch, and I do read about it quite a bit. But for me, it’s more about the culture, the entire energy of it — the hype! It’s nostalgic, a warm blanket: it reminds me of growing up. But it’s also about the future: it’s hopeful, smart, self-aware… cool. There’s nothing else like it in my life.


FoldingText’s development is officially on hold

  • I mean, Jesus. It’s so frustrating to have chosen this app, fallen in love with it, integrated it so deeply into the way I think/organize/plan, but be constantly frustrated by using it… and yet, having no alternative I would switch to. #digitalanxiety


L.M. Sacasas: Silence and social media

  • “To exist on social media,… one must speak.”

  • “[Silence is] an incubator of thought and feeling…. There is, as the writer of Ecclesiastes put it, ‘a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.’ Wisdom consists of knowing how to tell the difference. Social media tempts us with folly of believing there is only ever a time to speak.”

PIXL, magnetic building system

  • On one hand, these look fun. On the other, they reek of content — something designed, primarily, to fill space — not to address a real need. (In this case, filling a narrow niche in building toys… that no one was asking to be filled.) #design

  • This seems like maybe a problem with Kickstarter. At what point is the platform responsible for the creation of products on the platform? In other words, for encouraging ‘creators’ to create a problem and its solution simultaneously?

  • The Internet and globalization have evolved to the point where there’s no market too small, and no thing that can’t be manufactured cheaply, somewhere. And so, we’re now just filling the gaps in every product category — until absolutely every trinkety plastic and metal doodad that can exist, will exist.

Infinitown, perpetual cartoony 3D city

First Man Good™


Did a fun lesson with the 4th graders on passwords. I said: “Imagine you’re at outdoor BBQ at a friend’s house, and you need to use the bathroom. You walk inside and see this post-it on the fridge. What do you do?” Which led to a valuable discussion on what students would do with this information.

  • I also setup a real Dropbox account with files from a (fictitious) person — 8 photos (from a family on Instagram), a spreadsheet of “Friends and Family” contacts (names and addresses from Random Lists), and a text file of “passwords” for other accounts (Instagram, Amazon, Bank of America) — then said: “OK, now actually log in.” Which led to a valuable discussion on how they felt about viewing someone else’s files, and what they could do with all the information they found inside.

This is just the fridge in the library office.

  • They loved it, and the discussions were rich enough that I decided (during class) to save the other stuff I had planned for next week.

  • I’m getting better at designing lessons like this — transforming the essential concepts (in this case, password safety) into a whole other, fun and interesting exercise that naturally, contextually involves those concepts.

  • I figured all of this out on the way to school. Some of my favorite teaching ideas happen this way. #teaching

I complained last week about teaching the same lesson four times. But I actually really do like teaching the same lesson twice. It’s just enough of an opportunity to iterate, but without the monotony.

vlogbrothers: Why are humans suddenly getting better at Tetris?

  • “because a group of enthusiasts built spaces both online and off that allowed people to connect with each other over what is usually a very solitary hobby”

  • collaboration, feedback, iteration

Internet Archive: Computer Chronicles, “the world’s most popular television program on personal technology during the height of the personal computer revolution (1983–2002)”

I like getting to school early. Working at a place where kids are around all the time is one of the best parts of my job, but being here when it’s empty and quiet is really nice, too.


The Ringer: Why The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time will always be the “Best Game Ever”

  • “The game thrives on a feedback loop in which curiosity about the world around you constantly reveals new secrets.”

Fake text message generators: iOS + Android.

  • There’s an exercise in here somewhere. #lesson


I’ve landed on an official title for my Tuesday/Thursday recess activity: the Digital Design Lab. I’m telling the kids that these are the rules: 1. digital = using a computer, 2. design = creating with purpose, 3. lab = trying new things.

  • I’m really liking the dDl as an addition to my classes. I like that the kids drive — they can work on whatever’s interesting to them (within the new criteria), and it becomes what it becomes. There’s more internal motivation (from the kids) and less pushing and pulling between me and them.

  • That quality (of the students being totally invested) hasn’t happened as often at CWA as I’m accustomed to in my undergrad classes — which makes sense. But it’s a quality I miss sometimes.

The slide I have projected during the dDl, made with Deckset and Photoshop.


First day co-teaching in 7th grade science (I’m helping integrate making-of/process videos into their Mousetrap Car design project).

  • I don’t know the 7th/8th graders very well, so the interactions are (understandably) colder and less familiar, and I feel less comfortable in the room. I won’t ever work with these students as often as I do the 3rd/4th/5th graders, and the warm-up is going to be pretty long — if not indefinite. I’ll have to be OK with that, but it does affect my confidence.

  • As I identified the last time time I taught in the middle school, it’s important that the teacher acknowledges me at the beginning of the class (even if I’m not teaching right away). Otherwise (as is happening today), it feels awkward when I do start teaching — like I’m stepping into a place I haven’t been invited and don’t have the authority to be.

  • In three years, the middle school will be filled with the elementary students I’m teaching now, and that’s an exciting thought. The middle school (right now) feels like a fairly foreign place to me.

One of the minuses of middle school is having to teach the same lesson 3–4 times (to different groups of students). It feels monotonous, but it’s also a nice opportunity to reflect on the lesson itself and iterate. Today, my 4th lesson was probably my clearest and most cohesive — having made mistakes and fixed them (plus, it’s exciting that it’s the last time).

  • Like many things I’m recognizing by experiencing elementary/middle school from behind-the-scenes: I don’t ever remember thinking about how my middle or high school teachers were spending most of their days doing the same lesson multiple times.

The Take: The Wire — Omar Little, “A Man Got to Have a Code”

  • “we respect Omar as a moral character because he shows courage, integrity, and a coherent worldview through living by the rules he’s made for himself.”

  • “why has Omar chosen this path? Because it is the only path that offers freedom. The freedom to live as himself. The freedom to refuse to serve a king he despises. The freedom within a system in which most people feel they’re completely trapped — to shape his own life based on his own values. Omar chooses freedom, but he understands it comes at a price.”

  • “Omar’s code ultimately makes him alone.”

Spooktacular, creepy animated alphabet


Dictionary Stories by Jez Burrows Good™

Casual4 Good™


The Old Man & the Gun Good™

Urban Cone: 10–18 Good™

ProtonMail, private, ad-free email

LEGO Winter Village Fire Station + designer interview

LEGO YouTube channels: Lab + FanTube + Discover + Group

Re-reading On the Madness and Charm of Crushes 😎

  • “We should enjoy our crushes. A crush teaches us about qualities we admire and need to have more of in our lives.… To crush well is to realize that the lovely person we sketch in our heads is our creation: a creation that says more about us, than about them. But what it says about us is important. The crush gives us access to our own ideals. We may not really be getting to know another person properly, but we are growing our insight into who we really are.” {#theturn}

  • For a few weeks, I was crushing on Christine (CWA science teacher), and I thought maybe the feeling was mutual. But she’s married with kids. Just reflecting on it: I’m really attracted to teachers, English accents, and a woman who presents herself as having her shit figured out.… Which is all I can say I actually know about her.


My Coding & Robotics class (which meets every day and will be my first middle school class that I’m teaching on my own) will be the test I've been waiting for of how much I actually like working with middle schoolers.

Game Maker’s Toolkit: Super Mario 3D World’s 4-Step Level Design

  • 1. (introduction) Each level starts by introducing its concept in a safe environment. 2. (development) The concept is then established further [with the safety net removed]. 3. (twist) Towards the end of each stage, the concept is turned on its head in some way, to either challenge your mastery, or to make you think about it from a fresh perspective. 4. (conclusion) each level gives you one last chance to show off your skills with a suitable flagpole sequence.”

Rubber Tracks Sample Library, copyright-free audio samples

Type Foundry Index, list of type designers

The Ringer: Is it possible to know too much about basketball?, on the Clippers’ CourtVision technology

  • “There will be a day we look back and say, ‘I can’t believe we used to watch everything the same way at the same time’”

  • But isn’t the shared experience a reason we watch sports?

  • “one of the concerns raised by Clippers head coach Doc Rivers is whether fans will someday just be looking down at their phones—or up at the Jumbotron—instead of at the live action.”

  • “But when every question has an answer, it’s not as fun to ask in the first place.”

  • I think this is about more than just fun-ness. I remember (in high school Physics, I think) first learning about the Observer effect, where “simply observing a situation or phenomenon necessarily changes that phenomenon”. This is what analytics does. Analytics (or, at least, analytics about human behavior) transforms the thing being measured into to artificial, diluted, shells of itself — journalism becomes clickbait, sharing becomes bullshit, ideas become content.

  • “the new will become the norm.”


Incorporating mindfulness (meditation) into the classroom

“you know it’s a performance because you’re watching it.” — The Ringer


This week, started a unit with the 5th graders on memes. No surprise, they’re super stoked — they love memes. So far, we’ve just collected their favorites and started discussing what memes even are. My plan is to deconstruct and design memes next, then play the Like Economy game with them.

  • I framed our discussion around these questions: 1. Why do people make memes? 2. Where do the images come from? 2. Does anyone benefit from memes? 4. Is anyone affected negatively? And (as tends to happen with these students) their answers were deeper than I expected and covered more ground I’d hoped to.

  • Asking questions like this has become a consistent highlight of my life as a teacher. It’s a relatively recent thing, actually (only after having discovered media literacy in grad school). And it’s taken time for me to figure out how to ask questions. It’s hard. It turns out that good questions (or at least, the ones that seem most valuable in the classes I teach) are all about process, decision-making, goals, intent — design. Duh.

  • It seems so obvious now. And looking back, it’s a little crazy to recognize that (just like showing examples) I wasn’t doing much of this in my earliest classes. Crazy — questions and examples are most of what teaching even is to me now. #teaching

I still eat too much.


Association For Media Literacy: Media lessons with election signs

Future Fonts, fund experimental, works-in-progress typefaces


In my class, the 3rd graders have a problem with “talk-outs” (talking without first being called-on). One of the teachers (Deanne) suggested that I’m maybe asking too many questions. Which, honestly, is a problem I’m proud to have. I left grad school deciding that I wanted to be the kind teacher who taught through asking lots of questions (a method I discovered through media literacy). I’ve been building that skill — and I like the idea that I’ve become so comfortable with that style of teaching that I’ve gone too far (for 3rd graders, anyway).

Finished the Robotics Team logo. I’m satisfied with how this came together (surprising, considering how I was feeling last week). Even better, it was students (Ted and Cedar) who resolved it — turning a maybe-workable concept into a damned-fine logo.

  • Our goals: right angles + computer + metal (= robot) + problem-solving/engineering (fitting together) + W and A + school colors (green and white)

How the Mercator Projection map distorts countries’ true sizes


I have no patience for receiving a text/email about things that are delicate enough that they should really be handled in person. I had a boss (Drew) that did this regularly and a friend (Aubree) who’s been doing this recently. #weird

  • I’m writing this because Aubree sent a text asking me to clean my bathroom, saying “Our normal mode is that those things need to happen every week — to keep it a place we all want to be,” which feels incredibly condescending.

  • FUAY difficult conversation text/email

The LEGO Storage Guide + Labels

Firefox: ClearURLs add-on, removes tracking fields from URLs

The Book of Life: How to be comfortable on your own in public

  • “Eating alone in public can be one of the great hurdles of psychological life.”

  • It was for me. I do this a lot now, and I’m pretty comfortable doing it. But it was (like going to the movies alone and drinking alone) a fairly serious and intentional step.

  • “No one is born with a capacity to love and endure themselves on their own; we learn to soothe and care for ourselves by first experiencing the tender gaze of others, and then internalizing their reassurance and kindness, replaying it to ourselves in isolated circumstances down the years.”

  • “We should take comfort… from the idea that there is at points a distinct dignity and grandeur to being an outsider, to not always being part of the pack, to taking time to step outside the normal social flow in order to consider humanity from an oblique solitary angle. The temporarily friendless and isolated person has privileges and the possibility for insights denied to those always surrounded by the easy chatter of acquaintances.”

The Book of Life: How to stop worrying whether or not they like you

  • “We have to realize that whether or not the other person likes us is going to depend on what we do, not — mystically – what we by nature are

  • “It is [sad] when two people fail to connect because both parties defensively but falsely guess that the other doesn’t like them – and yet, out of low self-worth, don’t take any risk whatever to alter the situation. We should stop worrying quite so much whether or not people like us, and do that far more interesting and socially-useful move: concentrate on showing that we like them.”

Proposal for a book to be adapted into a movie starring Dwayne The Rock Johnson


In the last 10 days, I’ve been to Seattle (and back) 5 times for different things. Which is super unusual since moving to Tacoma. And now that I’m living 60/90/120 minutes away, those trips feel like a fairly big commitment, which means (in my head) I’m expecting them to be worth that investment in time and energy. Mostly, they have been — but these trips are no small thing, and I need to be careful about making these commitments.

Bought The Infinite Board Game, a modular board game system

  • Piecepack, games that can be played with it

Real Life Magazine: Irony is Not a Gateway Drug or Alibi for Racism

  • It seems to me that the motivation for many/most/all of the worst things that people do has a fairly simple explanation: selfishness — keeping what’s mine, confirming my identity, reinforcing what I believe, or respecting where I come from. That’s not an excuse, but I do think it helps to make sense of why people do such shitty things to each other.

Bad Times at the El Royale Not Great™

I have a friend who works for a big tech company (Sarah, at Amazon) who can only talk about her work vaguely. I understand why (I’m assuming there’s a non-disclosure agreement in play), but it’s hard to have a meaningful conversation when the most time- and energy-consuming thing about someone’s life is off-limits.


Went to the NWAIS (Northwest Association of Independent Schools) conference.

  • I need to go to more teacher conferences. 😎

  • This was at The Overlake School (another Washington private school). Since starting at CWA, I’ve been able to visit many of the schools that I also might’ve eventually ended up at, and I continue to feel like I landed at the right place. I really like: 1. that CWA is Pre-K through 12 (most schools are either K-5 or 5-12), 2. how modern my building is (some of the schools have pretty dated campuses), and 3. that I get to teach my own classes (instead of only being a technology ‘coach’).

  • Went to a Mindfulness and Media Literacy session that was super up my alley: learning to recognize our bias by paying close attention to our feelings while we interact with the piece of media.

This school year, I’m feeling so much better about my connections with the students. ⅔ of them are the same, which helps a lot. But I also feel like there’s a better understanding (from the students and teachers) of what my job even is.

  • I’m realizing now that last year’s 5th grade teachers (who are all gone) rarely used computers without me in the room. Which meant, for their students: Mr. Sparano = laptops. I don’t think those teachers really understood/respected what I brought to the room (which is much more than Typing Club). And I’m imagining (in retrospect) that that might explain why it was so difficult to manage those students — who I also felt (and still feel, as 6th graders) largely dismissed by. Just a guess, though.

The Passion Project: Justin Kemerling

  • There are very few people who I respect as much as this guy — a 100% real person.

The Take: Grease, Performing Gender

  • “It’s fitting that performance is at the heart of this teen movie. Adolescents tend to feel like they’re on stage and everyone’s watching. Much of the movie illustrates the pressure teens feel to perform false personas to fit in.… Especially as teens, we fixate on ideas of what we think others want from us.”

  • “The movie’s ultimate takeaway is that learning to perform yourself in a way that rings true is essential to growing up.”

  • Olivia Newton-John, forever.

Got to step foot in my actual (still under construction) apartment. I’m feeling super good about choosing this unit. I love that there are windows on two walls — there’s so much sunlight! This move can’t happen soon enough.


In 4th grade, our Technology project right now is helping design the new LS bike rack. 1. I started with a worksheet, asking students to list words and sketch pictures, answering the questions: “When you think of CWA, what words come to mind? What ideas do you want others to know about your school? What makes it a special place?” 2. Then, students built a digital prototype, using Google Drawings to mock-up their favorite symbols. The goal was to visualize their ideas quickly and get feedback on how clearly and meaningfully their designs communicated. “What does this symbol mean to you? How well do those ideas represent CWA? Any suggestions for how I can improve?” 3. Based on that feedback, students chose one prototype to share with the class. They printed it, posted it on the wall, and the class voted for their favorites.

  • Another instance where my graphic design experience has dovetailed naturally, ideally with this job. I love this balance: of using the same skills, but in a way that prioritizes the process itself (instead of the artifacts at the end).

A few worksheets, voting, and my personal favorite concepts.


Huskies @ Work, job shadowing with UW students

  • Signed up to do this.

Spotify: Lava Lamp playlist


Somehow I got wrapped up in (volunteered to) help kids design a new logo and t-shirt for [The Robotics Team]. It’s (of course) turned into a whole, thankless slog where everyone, you know, kinda likes it… but what if we did… this instead?

  • In this case, a few of the kids have been a big part of the process. But (of course) I’ve gotten squeezed into the middle of it, because of a deadline and being the only one who knows Illustrator.

  • I’m exaggerating, it’s not that bad. But it’s a reminder that I really hate doing graphic design for other people, and I should be more careful about getting myself into those situations. That phase of my life is over.

Two CWA teachers (Maren and Diana) asked “Do you ever swear?” People have asked me this before. I don’t really understand why.

Rams Good™


Mother. Fucker. The apartment called, and my move-in date has been delayed a month (to early December). It’s fine. I’m not angry. I’m just ready. #thenextphase

  • I feel like my life’s been on hold since well before moving to Seattle, before leaving Oxide. It started, really, the moment I decided graphic design wasn’t the job for me (sometime around 2008/9). 10 years of being on hold, and I’m so close.

The Passion Project: Kelsey Janda

  • Kelsey is my role model for owning your feelings, unapologetically. And for listening (really listening).

My middle school class, MS Coding & Robotics, starts on my birthday. Super stoked! I was born to teach this class.

  • BrickCon was really helpful — I have tons of ideas. This class is an ideal opportunity to remix some LEGO things I’m inspired by but haven’t gotten to use yet (JK Brickworks and Great Ball Contraptions), plus I can wrap the whole thing around design skills, which I haven’t been able to really teach at CWA yet.

  • Here’s the description: “Over the season, students will complete multiple challenges, individually and on teams. We’ll build a moving mechanical sculpture, a collaborative ball contraption, and solve a real-world problem — all through coding, robotics, and design.”

Unspiration: Zero Likes t-shirt

macOS: Use any PNG as a replacement app icon

“Thought 1: What if Twitter said: ‘We completed our 12 year experiment. We concluded that casting short statements devoid of context or humanity does more harm than good. Tomorrow we’ll shut down this garbage place. Thank you for participating.’ Thought 2: I should tweet that.” — John Henry

  • Thought 1 is an important idea. Adding Thought 2 reduces Thought 1 to a joke, just another nugget of content, intended to be liked instead of thought-about.

  • FUAY tweet

  • There was a time when I was really into Twitter’s constraints (tweets felt like fun, creative writing challenges). But now I see those constraints — especially in combination with Like Economics — as toxic mechanics. At best, tweets are trivial. At worst, they’re dangerously void of context, humanity, nuance, and accuracy.

Scott Martin (Burnt Toast): Social Media series — Abducted


Halloween (1978) Not Great™

BrickCon 2018, Day 2


This Is Not A Conspiracy Theory Podcast #2

A Star Is Born Good™

Lindsay Ellis: Manufacturing Authenticity on YouTube (For Fun and Profit!), deconstructing How To Cake It and Man About Cake.

  • “The interactions with the crew make the show feel more authentic.… This falls into line with the appeal of YouTube in general — that it strips away the polished facade of television to give you something more ‘real’.”

  • “even if there is no network or middleman, everything that is uploaded to YouTube is cultivated by the creator.”

  • “a YouTube show can’t be like the [obviously fake] genre of reality shows — it instead has to embrace… manufactured authenticity”

  • “The challenge for [YouTube] creators is to maintain the illusion for their followers of feeling like they… know this creator — when in reality they only know the affect, the construct, the side of the creator that the creator… has decided it is most beneficial for you, the audience, to see.”

It’s silly to worry about plot holes in movies

  • “[plot holes don’t] actually matter because they’re not what a movie is about.… many plot holes are things that would just destroy any conflict or drama and end the story immediately”

  • “In Episode 2F09, when Itchy plays Scratchy’s skeleton like a xylophone, he strikes the same rib twice in succession, yet he produces two clearly different tones.” — The Simpsons

  • “Plot holes don’t really mean anything, but they’re good clickbait.”

How to fit an NES game (Micro Mages) into 40kb

Will Schoder: What makes for a good celebrity cameo?

  • “shouldn’t we strive to make things timeless?”


BrickCon 2018, Day 1

  • This is my second year buying a Builder ticket, which gets me access to the presentations, and I can spend more time looking at the builds and talking to the builders.

  • It’s endearing to be in a group of people who are all speaking a very specific, nerdy language that we all understand. I do mean the words (jargon like “MOC, brick, plate, tile, SNOT, Dark Ages”) — but also just that we all have this nuanced thing in our lives that we connect with fundamentally. And we’ve found other people that get this thing, too. That’s a special thing.

  • “building dirty”: mixing LEGO and not-LEGO bricks (Mega Bloks, K'Nex).

Citizen Brick: I bought the Weird Al minifig, a 3D Glasses Head, and Wilson (the volleyball from Cast Away).

Also went to the Warriors-Kings pre-season game.

  • Totally worth the money I spent on this! And, since it was a celebration of the Sonics’ past and future (being Durant’s return to Seattle and the last event in KeyArena), it was a chance for me to experience the vibe of an old-school Sonics game.

  • Su—per!… Son—ics!…

Kevin Durant wearing a Shawn Kemp jersey. These were awesome seats. I was right there. And got to see several Sonics legends waiting in the wings, including Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf. Also Macklemore, in the orange hat.

In the same day, I attended one of the country’s best LEGO conventions and saw the current NBA Champions — in the same day!

  • This kind of cultural opportunity is one of the reasons I love living in a major metropolis (Seattle + Tacoma).

  • And living in Tacoma (instead of Seattle) feels like a better fit for me — having these cultural benefits, without the anxiety and frustration of the density. {#densemetropolis}

Earlier in the day, my phone got itself stuck in ‘loading’ mode, and it stayed that way for hours, failing to respond to any buttons I pressed. Turns out Apple changed the combo for a hard reset, which I learned from a guy at the game, after I asked him if he’d be willing to text me a few game photos, so I could remember the night. And after I had to ask the box office for a printed ticket, since I couldn’t use my phone to get in. Also couldn’t take any photos at BrickCon.

  • Digital devices work well — until at, at any moment, they don’t work at all. {#digitalsnxiety}

Scott took this photo for me.


Finally got myself to YMCA (I bought a membership a month ago) — my first time boxing since moving to Tacoma (two months ago). As much as I wanted to get back to boxing, I’ve been avoiding this because exercising in public (doing anything in public that no one else nearby is also doing) still makes me anxious.

  • But I had fun. And once I was doing it, it wasn’t a big deal.

  • Before tonight, I didn’t put the pieces together that working out at The Y allows me to punch a bag and shoot a basketball in the same workout. Which is a pretty sweet new thing I’ve never had the chance to do before.

  • I’d eventually like to add swimming into the rotation. But I’m still working up to that.

A profile of John McPhee, author and teacher

  • When it’s all said and done, I’d love to have made an impression like this.

  • “Another standard McPhee assignment came on Day One of the class: Pair up and interview each other, then write a profile. It was both an early test of our nonfiction writing skills and a clever way for McPhee to get to know his students at the beginning of the semester.”

  • Video/audio profiles could be a great first project in the middle school media literacy class I’d love to teach some day. #lesson

  • “McPhee never has suggested that the point of writing is to make money, or that the merit of your writing is determined by its market value. A great paragraph is a great paragraph wherever it resides, he’d say. It could be in your diary.”

Facebook advertisers can target specific people

  • “Facebook is not content to use the contact information you willingly put into your Facebook profile for advertising. It is also using contact information you handed over for security purposes and contact information you didn’t hand over at all, but that was collected from other people’s contact books”

Joylyn (UW Design student) interning at Intuit

  • It’s sad, I think, how many UW students end up following the path to working in the industry, speaking the jargon, and buying into the bullshit that consumer tech is meaningful or important., Khang’s new website

  • One of the most ambitious, unassuming, intuitively-gifted students I’ve met. Whenever I talk to someone that knows Khang, I say the same thing: he has such a bright future.

  • In my life, I’ve met several students who have this mix of qualities. Where I can see success for them so clearly — where it feels inevitable. And I’ve been teaching long enough now to see several of those students move on to do really great work and become respected, top-level professionals. Watching all of that play out has been one of the best parts of teaching.


Teaching is a meta experience. In class, when I’m talking about doing a thing (making a spreadsheet, designing a bike rack), the real lesson is one step back — about becoming aware of yourself doing the thing. It’s not about the spreadsheet, it’s about learning to think about yourself making a spreadsheet. #teaching

  • “Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.… There is no spoon.… it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.” — Morpheus, The Matrix

Made a page for the apps, tools, resources I’ve started sharing with the CWA teachers: (At school, they’ve been dubbed “Sparano Specials”.)

At times, coaching [The Robotics Team] feels like babysitting.

  • Today, I was the only coach and had to circulate between students working in three places. Several times, I’d return to one group and find students doing ridiculous things: one kid tying another one to a table, one kid playing games on his phone (as he has since the beginning of the season), and three more building dart guns and trying to stick pencils to the ceiling.

  • This is reminding me of what it felt like to be a TA. I’m getting squeezed in between: 1. not having the authority to affect the trajectory of the class, but 2. in the end, I’ll still be held responsible for the quality of the students’ experience.

  • I won’t say it was a mistake to sign up for this. (I think it’s healthy and important to default to trying new things.) But sometimes those things might suck. And now I know this isn’t for me.

“Society is not some grand abstraction, my friends. It’s just us. It’s the words we use, which are the thoughts we have, which determine the actions we take.” — Umair Haque


Integrating Apple Remote Desktop into my lessons has been awesome. Last year, when I wanted to demonstrate how to do something on screen, I’d do the talking and clicking (which felt a little dry and often didn’t match students’ interface.) This year, I’ve been asking for one volunteer (working from their laptop, at their desk) to click along as I give them instructions in real-time, while the rest of the class observes. The students love it.

  • It works better because: 1. my instructions are more thorough because I’m talking a student through the clicking, 2. my hands are free to point at the screen, 3. I can see and respond to the ways kids actually use their computers, 4. generally, the kids are more invested when they’re seeing a classmate do it, and 5. I’m having more fun, too.

  • Initially, I intended to use ARD to lock students’ screens and have more control over the flow of the class, but things have been going so smoothly that I haven’t needed to do that., random lists

  • Random Team Generator + Random Name Picker, for class (choosing students and making groups)

  • Students can get really hung up on choosing who’s going to be in their group. I have to be careful not to say the words “groups” or “partners” too early, or I’ll lose them.

Still got it. September


Kirby Ferguson: The Power of Palettes (Remix Method #4)

  • palette: “recurring styles and elements within your work. They simplify your aesthetic and help it feel more unified and cohesive. They also help organize and structure your work.”

  • The first use of palettes I was aware of was Trent Reznor and NIN. I’m amazed, still, at how much he’s able to mine out of a limited set of sounds.

Young Frankenstein Not Good™


First time driving on I-5 (the Seattle-to-Tacoma interstate) for a month. People are such dicks on the road. There’s nothing like it.

Mutual Education, communicating with students by expressing and empathizing-with feelings and wants.

  • Example: “Why aren't you working?” vs. “I'm concerned because I haven’t seen you working today [feeling], and I want you to reach the objectives we set [want].”

  • “When a teacher communicates feelings and wants, they enter a relationship with a student without presenting a front or a facade.… It means that they come into a direct personal encounter with the learner, meeting on a person-to-person basis. It means that they are being themselves and not denying themselves”

  • Problems in any relationship often come from conflicting goals (or from conflicting designs towards similar goals). Expressing feelings and wants is a strategy for getting goals out in the open — to make compromise possible. #teaching #design

  • “The intent in expressing feelings and wants is the same as the intent in giving gifts; one intends that the other is to receive the gift and one hopes the other benefits by it, but one does not present the gift with any demands, obligations, or expectations.”

Veronica Mars Season 4 is happening!


The Passion Project: Jesse Harding

  • “I realized that eventually you can weave all these different directions into something that’s unique to you — and that’s true to where your interests really are.”

  • “If you have the interest, and you have the drive to pursue it, I think inevitably a plan materializes.”

  • It’s been inspiring to watch Jesse follow the things that interest him, follow them to their potential, and then keep on following — in whatever direction feels like should be next. Very few people have that drive, or the courage it takes to do that.

Dizzy: Baby Teeth Good™

Game Maker’s Toolkit: Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, Thematic Level Design


Maybe weird to say, but absolutely true: lots of times, when I’m sitting down, working on anything, and then stand up to walk somewhere — often, to pee — I’ll immediately (within seconds) make some new connection or remember something I’d forgotten. Things that hadn’t occurred to me the whole time I was working. Happens all the time.

Kyle Chayka: Google’s ‘Smart Reply’ and Automatic Language

  • “The Platforms are treading directly into your personal communication, intercepting your sentences and subtly redirecting them…. By using these tools we surrender ourselves to the suggestion of machines controlled by companies [whose goal is to sell us stuff].”

Social media outrage about a New Yorker cartoon

narcissism of small differences: hypersensitivity to the ways that similar people are dissimilar to you — to preserve a sense of self.

  • “consumer culture has been seen as predicated on the narcissism of small differences to achieve a superficial sense of one’s own uniqueness, an ersatz sense of otherness which is only a mask for an underlying uniformity and sameness.”

Firefox Monitor, data breach database/notifications


“Hi, Mr. Sparano. Technology is one of my favorite subjects in school. And one reason is because of you.” — 3rd grader, Patrick just passing by in between classes.

Signed up to teach my own middle school LEGO robotics and coding class, starting at the end of next month. It’s a full-on, 5-day-a-week class, which I didn’t expect to happen so soon. But I’m ready for it. LEGO. Coding. Middle school. Dude! Stoked.

Conserve The Sound, museum of old technology sounds

Here’s The Thing: Bernie Sanders

As much as the [The Robotics Team] doesn’t seem (so far) to be a good fit for my goals as a teacher, there’s at least one thing I really like about it: working with the high schoolers. Three days a week, I’m working with 3rd–12th graders over the course of the school day. And I think that’s a pretty special opportunity: 1. (personally) the variety is interesting, and it gives me a lot of perspective, and 2. (professionally) it’s good to have so much practice switching gears, meeting those kids where they are.

  • The high schoolers remind me of UW students, which is also just a nice thing to have in the back of my mind.


I decided to turn The Makery into a coding/physical-computing workshop-thing instead (Tuesdays and Thursdays during morning recess). I bought a few micro:​bits (which I’ve been looking for an opportunity to do). And the kids are totally into it! It’s all self-directed (they’re here because they chose to be), they’ve been asking for extra time, and more kids have been showing up each session.

We’re a month into the school year, and things are going super well. I’m having fun, building real connections with the kids, and my classes are (for the most part) going smoothly.

  • Honestly, I’m kicking some serious ass. Wins left and right. #firstteamalldefense

  • I scheduled a calendar reminder for myself every morning: “Be proactive, really get in there, use names, don’t take it personally” — things I tend to forget in the midst of my natural anxieties and the stress of managing a class. It’s been really helpful.

One of the classroom strategies that’s finally clicked for me: I’m more intentionally breaking up lessons into smaller chunks (presentations, exercises, discussions, work time) — 4–5 chunks in each class (≈ 10 minutes each). The chunks are a lot smaller than I’m used to using (with undergrads), and it took me awhile to see that.


Incomplete Open Cubes Revisited, the 4,094 ways to draw an incomplete cube

  • Another way to demonstrate the surprising number of ways there might be (probably are) to do even the simplest of things. (Along with this example, too.)

Foreign Fields: Take Cover (Dark Versions) Good™


Uninstalled Creative Cloud at home, which is the first time I’ve been Adobe-free (personally, at least) in 10+ years. (My CWA laptop has a license, so I’ll still be using these apps regularly.)

  • I like the Adobe apps, a lot. But 1. not the all-or-nothing subscription model (I only use InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop, and I don’t think I should have to pay for apps I don’t use). And 2. it doesn’t feel fair to pay nearly the same price as industry pros, who use these as tools to generate income (the education price is still $30/month).

The Book of Life: The Drive to Keep Growing Emotionally

  • “we can know easily enough what it means to be fully grown physically, but it is rather harder to pin down what equivalent emotional maturity might look like.”

  • “Our emotional drive is made up of two strands:… towards ever greater and deeper connection [and] towards ever greater and deeper self-expression.”

  • “We seek to gain an ever greater understanding of the contents of our minds, especially of our values, our pleasures and our way of seeing the world, and to be able to give these a kind of expression that makes them public, comprehensible and beneficial to others.”

  • This website does this for me.

Rebel Without a Cause Not Great™

KirbytextRaw, Kirby plugin that removes unnecessary tags

Continuing to tweak this site visually, and enjoying it.

  • Stoked about this: I wrote a script to randomly choose a Font Awesome icon (from 230+ options) for each page. So (like the random color script from before), everyone sees a slightly different version of the site, which is interesting to me. And the icons add a new layer, where the meaning of the titles change depending on the icon that lands next to it.

  • Why randomness? At first, it was a way to avoid (on the last version) the anxiety of making a color decision. But I’ve grown to appreciate that the site is not one specific thing — it’s always in flux, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. For a personal website, that feels right.

  • And (of course) it’s also a convenient shtick — a trick for making this site more interesting than it’d be without it. The uniqueness of this site is important to me.

  • It’s interesting to see that most combinations of icons and page titles work.

I wrote about this phrase on 9.10.


School of Life: Phone Detox, pocket-sized meditations

Juliet, Naked Good™

Just six weeks left until the new apartment…! #thenextphase

I’m on this corner, first floor above the garage. Photo from May.


I inherited The Makery from a teacher (Gabriel) who left CWA last year. It’s a closet full of tools and interesting junk that students can ‘make’ stuff with. In theory, it’s recycling (the kids are making use of things that were already trash). But reassembling it requires a lot of duct tape and hot glue. And destroying it makes it less actually recyclable — and less likely to be recycled.

  • One of the things I love about my classes is that they’re mostly digital — they generate very little physical anything. I have tremendous guilt about facilitating classes or clubs that encourage students to generate new junk. And tremendous anxiety about organizing closet-fulls of stuff.

I’m learning that, as part of the natural course of life at a school, there’ll be students who don’t return the next school year (for whatever reason). I continue to recognize more students from last year who aren’t around, and it’s a bummer.

  • Now that I’m re-experiencing elementary school as an adult, there are several things like this, that I don’t remember thinking about as a kid.

Kemerling: How are things? alternatives

  • Generally, I think “How are things?” is an irritating question. It feels like a burden disguised as a gift. It’s like: “Hey, I’m going to start a conversation with you, but you’re responsible for doing the thinking and finding something meaningful to say now.”

  • “Are you living the life you want to live?”

  • Now that’s a question!

Remembear: Auto-fill passwords in iOS 12

  • Password management is one of the dumbest, most tedious modern problems that no one asked for. #digitalanxiety

The Take: Mad Men — Roger Sterling, Man in Decline

micro:​bit accessories/add-ons: Pimoroni + Kitronik + ElecFreaks

vlogbrothers: The Parable of the Perfect Pot

  • “it doesn’t matter how good you are at something: your first pot’s gonna suck. And it doesn’t matter how much you suck: your 1000th pot is gonna be pretty good.”

  • “I make a pot. I present it for judgment. I receive feedback. I use that feedback to make another pot. Which I present and receive feedback. I use that feedback to make another pot. Which I then present. And then people give me feedback on the pot. And then I use that feedback to make another pot.” #design

Vox: How social media exploits our tribalism

Commodity City: A Chinese manufacturing market


I cannot watch enough Shark Tank.

  • I recognize that this doesn’t really make sense, considering how I feel about entrepreneurship and consumerism (and puns). But I enjoy the problem-solving and the conversations that happen in the Tank.

Mechanical Face, classroom engineering project


Starting a spreadsheet unit with the 5th graders, using an inspiration exercise I’m calling Mystery spreadsheets, where students open 3 spreadsheets I’ve collected and try to figure out the purpose of each. (The goal is to get them in Google Sheets right away, really looking and thinking-about meaningful, creative ways to use spreadsheets.)

  • I included my Grad School Spreadsheet, which was a trippy full-circle moment, where got to say, to a room of 10-year-olds, that I used this spreadsheet to choose Seattle and UW, and those choices lead me to be standing here, now. Pretty cool.

  • This unit is doubly-special for me because one of my most vivid memories of my own technology education was learning about spreadsheets, in Mr. Lubbers’ class at Central Middle School. Using Excel ClarisWorks (I think) on Macintosh Classics.

My Grad School Spreadsheet + Your Life in Weeks, the spreadsheet

Third week coaching the [The Robotics Team]. Honestly: not feeling it.

  • I don’t look forward to going, and it’s taking away six prime (after-school) work hours a week, which feels like a lot.

  • My attempts to introduce any kind of process haven’t landed. The students have shown so little interest in the things I’ve tried (two concepting exercises, setting season goals based on feedback about last year, and encouraging students to prototype) that I’ve already given up trying to do anything big. There’s not a culture in place of intentionality and collaboration, and it feels silly to try to do that as the noob coach. One-on-one, the students are cool, but as a team, it’s pretty bland.

  • Example: this week, two students (at different times) asked me to help choose between concepts they’d sketched (parts/features of the robot). I said, “I don’t know which is better. But! I know how to find out: prototype them and test them against each other.” It wasn’t the answer they were hoping for, and neither of them built prototypes — or even tried.

  • Frustratingly, if this team were to thoroughly, intentionally design a robot (instead of building whatever idea seems best at the moment), they’d build a better robot be more successful. That’s absolutely true.

There’s a lot of talk at CWA about robotics and makerspaces. But I’m growing skeptical of both: 1. I worry how wasteful they are — they require a lot of physical stuff, and (with makerspaces) that stuff is often not reusable, 2. they’re both expensive, which limits the number of students who can participate, and 3. they both sound cool on paper, but they’re deceptively limited in practice — they require so much specialized knowledge that students (understandably) can’t use the materials to their potential.

  • I’m (still) more excited about coding at CWA. Which 1. requires very little physical stuff, 2. is very cheap, and 3. is as cool on paper as it is in practice.

  • And I’m still interested in LEGO Robotics — which is reusable and more approachable by more students than the industrial-strength materials we’re using on [The Robotics Team].

3D Zoetrope, stop-motion machine


For a month, I’ve mostly ignored texts and personal emails. I feel bad about it. I’ve seen these messages come in, I know who they’re from, and I know I’m ignoring them. #email

  • Why am I doing this? 1. It started as an intentional break from digital messaging — just a few days. But I enjoyed the freedom. And, day by day, it turned into a month. 2. I’m back to school (and I have no time/interest in emailing when I get home). 3. I have two computers now (one for work, one for home), which has really drawn a line between me and my personal emails, 4. typing at each other continues to feel like a ridiculous thing to be doing at all, and 5. for whatever reason, right now, I need the extra mental space that messaging tends to consume (and it does take a lot to stay on top of).

  • I don’t see these messages as obligations anymore, a switch that flipped sometime in the last few months. I didn’t ask for them, so I feel like I should have a choice whether or not to respond. Does that make me a butthead? A bad friend?

  • So, what’s the solution? 1. I’d love to stop digital convos altogether (except for scheduling and important stuff). 2. I’d love to bring back the phone call. (I had a great call with Adam last week, and I always appreciate those.) 3. And, really, I think this page is already a big part of the ideal solution. This is what I’m doing and thinking about, and it’s available for anyone who’s curious, at any time.

  • But it’s not bi-directional, and I wish everyone had a blog. I read Justin’s post today, and I like knowing what’s on his mind. And, since it’s his reflection on an article I also read, it’s (in a way) a dialog. Blogging is digital communication that feels like time well-spent.

  • Retrospectively, it was helpful when texts were limited. (I can remember having only 100 free texts available per month.) Unlimited texting and Apple Messages have really messed us up.

  • Interestingly, none of the people whose messages I ignored decided to call and try to reach me another way. (Not a judgement, just an observation.)

Twitter brings back the chronological timeline

  • I don’t use Twitter anymore, but I do think this is an important change. (Chronological should be the only available setting, though. And favorites and follower-counts should be removed, too.)

  • “the degradation in [online] conversation and content quality [is] driven by recommendation algorithms, which sort content by how likely a user is to engage with it. That’s how the Facebook News Feed works, that’s how YouTube’s sidebar works, and that’s how Twitter’s timeline has worked for the last three years. Instead of showing you only things you request or presenting content strictly in chronological order, for example, the algorithms would show you things… that make you very happy or very angry in order to keep you on the site longer, at the expense of your well-being and that of your fellow users.”

Tom Gauld: Us and Them, illustration

FUAY announcement (especially a job-related one, or a “humbled to announce…” announcement).

  • Your life is not a performance. Your decisions are not events. Your personality is not a brand. Your friends are not an audience. Your ideas are not currency. Your experiences are not content. #realness

36 Days of Type 2018

  • What an example of the unexpected number of many ways there are to do even a very specific thing (in this case: three-dimensional, capital F, made of only black and white stripes).

Had a good moment today with the 5th graders. During a ‘transition’ (the few seconds between sitting at their desks and sitting in the front of the room for a discussion), they started conversations and/or generally messing around. When they arrived, I just smiled and asked, “How do you think that went?”, and they knew. I asked, “What am I looking for?”, and they knew. We tried it again, and it was only slightly better. I smiled and said “Let’s try again.” And they did, and it was smoother.

  • This kind of thing happens a lot. Taking time to stop and correct their behavior choices is one of hardest and best lessons I’ve learned about working with little kids. There’s no choice, really. It makes a huge difference in the quality of the lesson and in maintaining my authority in the room (even if I’m spending time teaching skills like this that are tangential to the lesson).

  • I’m surprised by how much kids enjoy talking about their mistakes and ways they can improve.

A big part of teaching little kids is explaining context, and giving them opportunities to consider context, in whatever they’re doing. Where did this come from? Why am I telling you this? What is this for? Have things always been this way? How does this connect to other things in the world? #teaching

  • So much of what kids experience is the first time they’re experiencing it. It feels like an honor (and a responsibility) to help reveal the world to them.


Had a CWA meeting with art faculty, about the makerspace, where many of the teachers at the table were using the two versions of ‘design’ in the same breath (“good design” to mean looking good, and “design thinking” to mean a process/mindset) — with no idea that they were conflating two different concepts. I don’t blame them, it’s the design industry’s doing. Just an example of how deeply all of this goes.

Matt and Greg (the two heads of school) are really good in front of groups. They come across as articulate, likable, down-to-earth, empathetic dudes. I think they’re great at their roles. But it’s been interesting to notice how that same behavior doesn’t work in one-on-one conversations — which (in my experience) tend to feel artificial and calculating. Not malicious. Just phony.

How in the world do people have time to make dinner? Spending an hour (or two?!) preparing, eating, and cleaning up? And on a week night?! WTF. It just doesn’t feel worth it. Not even close. #howdopeoplelive?

  • Aubree cooks dinner a lot, which is impressive. But I feel obligated to help, and I’m always irritated by how much of my night it consumes.

Every Man Jack: natural deodorant


Redesigned the CWA lower school landing page, just for fun. I like finding graphic design opportunities at CWA.

  • This is an example, I think, of something I’ve tried to impress on students at UW: that graphic design is a skill that works best when it’s applied to something else — rather than being a “thing-by-itself”.

  • Also added a Mr. Sparano’s Technology Playground link. Several students have told me that they were looking for it over the summer and couldn’t remember the URL. Which really warms my heart.

Photoshop: New Guide Layout

Damn, that looks good!


Started working on the next iteration of this site. Mostly, my goals are to: 1. capture a little more of who I am, visually (communicating specifically and with nuance — with intention), but 2. without seeming like it’s trying too hard to do that (basic, of minimum complexity). That balance is important to me. It’s maybe the defining quality of the graphic design I’m inspired by.

  • But, I think it’s tricky to actually pull off. And as much as I liked the last version, it shied too heavily away from trying. And so, didn’t communicate much about me, visually.

  • So, how do I see myself? What do I hope to communicate through this site’s typography/color/layout? 1. optimism, 2. sincerity, 3. logic and emotion, 4. calm and enthusiasm, and 5. complexity., February 2017 – September 2018. Goodbye, friend!

Turnip feels like the right next typeface (it’s been on my list for awhile). DJR describes it as “down-to-earth, chunky, informal” and “[not trying] to be classic or beautiful, but… not plainly functional either”. Plus, it’s both rounded and square.

Mike Caulfield: A History of CRAAP, the fact-checking strategy (which isn’t very effective for web content)

FUAY shitty coffee shop Wi-Fi

A Simple Favor Not Great™

  • Blake Lively, forever.


This was my first full, five-day week teaching at CWA (since I was part-time last year).

Lessons from the Screenplay: A Quiet Place, Telling a Story with Sound

  • “Images come in through the front door, but sound comes in through the back door.… You can dig into that reptilian part of the human senses. And in a way, with sound, become… a puppet master of emotions.”

  • “If every sound in a movie was played at a loud volume from beginning to end,… it would prevent any particular loud moment from being impactful.… And just like any element of filmmaking, sound is most effective when it’s utilized in dynamic ways to create moments of contrast. And it underscores the power of dynamics, reminding us that the plot of a film should flow between emotional states. And that the loudest sound can only come from a quiet place.”

  • LFTS is my favorite video essay series. One of the things I really like about it is that the production choices (the color, typeface, music, layout) are so consistent. And he nailed all of it from the start. It’s a cohesive body of work.

Game Maker’s Toolkit: Games Designed Around ‘Missing Mechanics’ (GMTK Game Jam 2018) + the games

Bachelor in Paradise5 Good™


Back to School Night at CWA (an open house, just for parents). Super stressful. I tend to be in my element at these kinds of social things. And mostly, it went fine. I was able to field parents’ questions in a way I think they were satisfied by.

  • But there was at least one moment, standing in a circle, being the only one speaking, talking about what is, really, the most pressing issue of our times (helping prepare their kids for a life online) surrounded by the people (essentially) writing my paycheck — it was intense. I was nervous, and it was written on my face.

  • As awkward as that moment was, it’s a product of me being an especially sensitive person — and that’s a thing that makes me good at my job.

Pentagram: Library of Congress identity

Apple Lost Its Soul

  • “Apple [originally] stood for something and redefined our expectations of personal computing and mobile devices. Its products looked great and the options were streamlined so as not to confuse the customer; and while the prices were high, they were usually still attainable.… [Today, the] focus on pleasing investors has forced Apple to introduce higher end product categories… to further increase the profit margin and average selling price.”

Longform: David Marchese, interviewer for In Conversation


In 5th grade, starting the year with a What Is Technology? unit, asking students to collect examples of technology in their lives and write their own definitions of technology. Together, we decided on: “technology is a tool, made by humans, that’s useful, that’s complex, and that makes things simpler for people.” (my synthesis)

  • One student (Maddie) suggested an idea that I hadn’t considered before: the correlation between the complexity of a technology and the amount of human work it replaces. The less a person has to do, the more (necessarily) complex the technology must be.

  • This was pretty dope, and it was inspired by an article I read two weeks ago. These are the kinds of moments that indicate to me that I have the right job: when the things I’m doing, for fun — for me — also have a place at work.

“That was a well-run class, Mr. Sparano!” — 5th grade teacher (Carie)

  • My classroom management skills are finally starting to click into place. This is one of CWA’s all-stars. I’ve learned a lot from her.

Apple and Amazon can delete purchased media

  • “the ‘Buy’ button in digital stores is, at best, mislabeled. You cannot truly buy anything digital… only rent it”

ayokay: In the Shape of a Dream Good™

Picture day at CWA. Picture day!

  • Wore my glasses. {#pro}

Little Big City, custom Mario Galaxy-style 3D maps

A Vision of Isolating Technology comic, from 1906

“Thank you for teaching.” — 5th grader J.T.

During their recess, a few 2nd graders invented this thing called a “Markbook” — a book made of bookmarks!


Talking to the 5th graders about last week’s class (which was rough), and it was a nice moment. They want to be held accountable. They know how to make better choices, but they need my help. I told them that it’s their responsibility to make better choices, but it’s also my responsibility to hold them accountable and give them opportunities to reflect and plan (things I didn’t do last week).

  • So much of classroom management is counterintuitive to me. 1. I’m surprised how much kids want to be held accountable. They like reflecting on their mistakes and identifying ways to make better choices (how to ‘transition’ from desks to meeting in front of the class). 2. They need instructions in such specific detail (when you’re finished, do this) and so frequently (all the time) that I forget. And 3. they need reminders of the most basic things (raising their hands?!) that I assume they’ve already mastered.

Another bonus of Feedbin: it strips tracking and scripts, so anything I read in Feedbin, I read anonymously.

Moduletto, modular notebook system

Newsela, adaptive reading-level news stories for kids


“Eat when you’re hungry.”

  • We played a game in our faculty meeting where partners build stories together, alternating one word at a time. The stories must begin with “Once upon a time…” and end with “And the moral of the story is…”. This was one of the morals from another group, and I like it. Literally, and as a metaphor for doing what you gotta do.

I’ve been stopping at Whole Foods once or twice a week for salad bar, beer, and a hot chocolate, which is about $25. That’s more than I should be spending on one dinner (my salads alone are $15 — insanity), but it’s good stuff. And if, by 38, I’m not living exactly the life I want to be living, then when would that be?

First classes with the new 3rd graders (who I haven’t taught before), which went really well. I’ve learned a lot about working with little kids in the last year (and especially, little kids with screens in front of them). I’m no pro, and I’ve got a ways to go. (Kids still tend to talk more and focus less in front of me than they do with their homeroom teachers.) But so far this year, I’m enjoying it more, feeling more confident, more myself, more present, and better at it than ever.

  • I’ve been studying their names, so I walked into class with all 32 of them memorized. Only one student (Ila) recognized that and wondered how that was possible, but I’ll take it.


Not-surprisingly, my smart bulb setup regularly doesn’t do something it’s supposed to. It’s frustrating. But it’s also sad — we have no control over the success of our gadgets. The only choices available to us are: 1. acquiesce and use these things, expecting them to fail, and without fully trusting in them, or 2. not use these things at all. #digitalanxiety

“We believe that, like a camera, our mind snaps an instantaneous picture of reality as it is.… [But] we forget that we see what we intend to see, meaning that to which we direct our attention and also that which we expect to see.” — L.M. Sacasas

The Social Media Eye

  • “The photographer knows well that after taking many pictures one develops ‘the camera eye’…. Even without the camera in hand the world becomes transformed into the status of the potential-photograph. Today, we are in danger of developing a ‘[Social Media Eye]’: our brains always looking for moments where the ephemeral blur of lived experience might best be translated into a [post]”

  • “[Social media] fixates the present as always a future past. …social media users have become always aware of the present as something we can post online that will be consumed by others.”

CWA hired a photographer for the year to drop into classes and take candids for the school’s social media and marketing. He visited a class I was in this week. These kids are working really hard to pretend they aren’t totally distracted by their being-documented. A real moment, lost forever, replaced by a constructed moment, presented and consumed as a real one.


With the Robotics Team, we watched the Challenge kick-off and officially started the season.

  • I wasn’t sure before today if I was a good fit for this, or what coaching was even like. But it’s clear that what this team needs most is a design process. I realized today that teaching design has been really good preparation for coaching. Like, I know exactly what to do.

  • Is this team interested in setting goals, considering the options, giving each other feedback, prototyping, building the best solution (rather than just ‘a’ solution)? Not sure.

  • The words ‘team’ and ‘coach’ are thrown around a lot in the design and tech industries, which bugs me. It 1. conveniently glosses over the commercial/business dimensions of those roles (which feels disingenuous), and 2. risks tarnishing actual recreational/educational teams with more business-like bullshit (which is scary).

Mike Caulfield: Two moves for quickly fact-checking a news story: look for other coverage and verify the URL on Wikipedia + video series

The Nun Not Good™

Got a temporary tattoo at the CWA carnival yesterday, and I’m really liking having a tattoo here. I’ve had a plan for a Square + Circle tattoo since at least 2011, but I’ve been incapacitated by the number of decisions to make about it — size, line thickness, location, etc. I’m less concerned with those details now, and I might be ready for it. Maybe!


Still got it. 😎

  • Maybe it’s due to having escaped the Seattle Freeze, maybe it’s because I feel more confident from being in such a good place in my life, maybe it’s from eating better, maybe it’s because I love my job and I smile all day long. But whatever it is, I feel attractive now, again. Or at least, like a visible human being. It’s been a long time. #hello?

I arrived in Seattle four years ago today.

First classes of the year with the 4th graders, who (as 3rd graders) tended to be pretty tough for me. The kids were super present and excited to be back in my class. It was fantastic, for a few big reasons: 1. there’s a vibe in the 4th grade classrooms (from the teachers and students) of curiosity, independence, and thoughtfulness that just really works for everyone, 2. I’m continuing to get better designing lessons that are varied, fun, and interesting for them, 3. I’m continuing to figure out how to manage their attention, 4. I know these kids really well now, and they know me, and 5. they’re older (only by a few months, but it’s noticeable).

  • Here’s an example of me figuring out make a potentially boring thing interesting. I wanted to start the year by discussing questions like: “What can you do… when you finish a technology task early, and other students are still working?” and “What can you do… to prepare your laptop for the next person to use it?” Instead of just discussing all four questions as a class, I printed each question (in 60pt. Roboto) on one sheet of paper, gave one question to a group of four students, which they discussed, and then reported back to everyone. They ate it up and covered all of the things I hoped they would.

  • Students really respond to: 1. being given responsibility, 2. having clearly-defined goals, and 3. having choices available. Even when (and this still surprises me) their task isn’t ‘fun’ in an obvious way.

I’ve started using Apple Remote Desktop in class, which allows me to control students’ laptops (lock them, open apps and websites, project one student’s screen to the class). Which, of course, is wizard-level amazing to them (and me).

  • Also, of course, it doesn’t work as well as it promises. Today, I showed them how I could lock their screens, but in both classes, 3–4 screens didn’t. Iconically, it’s a chance for me to demonstrate how technology isn’t 100% reliable, and to model gracefully rolling with it.

I also stumbled into a new technique for calling their attention and pausing whatever they’re working on. A 5th grade teachers (Carie) uses clapping (any pattern, which they repeat). Which works, and I’ve seen teachers use countless times in the past, but I’ve never tried. She used it during my class, and in that moment, I noticed that, not only does it snap the class into focus, but it also — super-conveniently — separates hands from keyboards. Slick.

  • Today, when I introduced this technique to the 4th graders, I said that I prefer clapping over “Shark attack!” (which I also lifted from another teacher and used last year, to mixed success) because the later required me to shout at them, which they don’t deserve. I told them exactly that, and there was a look of recognition on their faces that I really loved. “Shark attack!” is an awkward, mildly humiliating, authoritarian technique — and they knew that.

  • I also asked them what clapping requires of their hands that I also appreciate — and they reverse-engineered why.

  • I think it’s essential to let students into the thinking behind my teaching decisions. Fun and interesting, too. I don’t want to play any head games, manipulate them, or to draw awkward lines of authority between me and them. I see teachers do it, and that shit is toxic. #teaching

The Grandmaster of Kung Fu Films

Vox: How Copying Moves Fashion Forward

  • “In fashion… it’s actually the ability to copy that promotes progress. Fashion designers take inspiration… from existing designs, and they do this with abandon. But this is what creates trends, and trends sell fashion. When the copying proceeds to a certain point, fashion-forward people have had enough, they jump off, [then] jump on to the new trend that copying has [again] helped to set. This rapid cycle created by the freedom to copy actually forces the fashion industry to innovate.”

Nerdwriter: Deconstructing Michael Jackson’s “Don't Stop ’Til You Get Enough”

Pixel Gustavo: Michael Jackson Moonwalker poster

Alternative Movie Posters


This week, I’ve been co-teaching (Hoppin’s 8th grade art, introducing Illustrator and logo design) a middle school class, and it’s been… super weird. As much as I’ve taken ownership of my role, I didn’t feel like the students viewed me as, also, a teacher. It was particularly frustrating today, when I did an exercise I’ve done many times before (Animal + Safeway-item logo design) — which is usually super fun and interesting for students, but today was a half-assed, strange, sad mess.

  • I put the responsibility on the other teacher, who: 1. awkwardly introduced me by talking about me without giving me the floor (in four different classes), 2. failed to support the expectations I tried to set for students’ work, 3. was distracting students during the exercise instead of helping them through it, and 4. has a one-directional, ego-driven teaching style that’s incompatible with how I think a classroom should work and feel.

  • Strangely, some of the kids seem to really like him. This is a thing I don’t get: why do students (and really, people everywhere) respond to self-involved people?

  • As the students were leaving class today, they said goodbye and thank you to Hoppin (many times, and by name), without acknowledging me — really, at all. Despite the fact that I did most of the instruction today. It was fucking SURREAL. Really pissed me off. #hello?

  • The plan is for me to co-teach regularly in the middle school this year, and these are things I’ll try to circumvent in the future. (But, frankly, it may not even be necessary to remind other teachers of these things.)

One drawback to middle school: teaching the same lesson four times is kind of a slog. That said, the fourth version was definitely my best — having found the clearest explanations for concepts, and the most interesting way to deliver them.

Chickens weird me out. Aubree has some, and they live outside the window of my room. Dead or alive (it’s the meat most responsible for my flexitarianism).

“Sure, those things happened, that person is that way, the system will do its thing, but you don’t have to feel a certain way about any of it.” —


Web Design Museum, Internet pages of old


I still feel anxious before my classes. But I do enjoy what I do, and I want to be doing it, and it helps to remind myself of that.

Teaching little kids is so hard. It’s maybe the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

  • I’m not particularly good at it yet. Specifically, management: 1. preventing kids from going off the rails when they have laptops in their hands, and 2. keeping kids in groups (with laptops closed) from just talking, and talking. And talking.

  • And I’m not sure in which direction I need to go to improve: does it require more nuance, or more heavy-handedness? Is it the laptops (which they always have when they’re with me, and rarely otherwise), or is it me? I don’t really know.

  • Part of this is that most of my teaching experience is with undergrads, who are calm and quiet by default. Management is a brand new teaching skill for me.

  • And this is my problem to solve — not the kids. I had a rough class today in 5th grade, with students who I know really well now, enjoy working with, and who seem to respect me and enjoy my classes. But it went off the rails from my mis-management.

  • I’m getting better at not taking it personally and not getting upset. But it’s hard.

In the last year, I’ve fumbled so often in learning how to teach little kids (no catastrophes, but lots of small mistakes). It’s been incredibly hard to differentiate not being a good teacher (which, I really think I am) from not knowing how to manage a classroom of 10-year-olds. These are different skills, but not having the management skills has made it difficult to do the rest of my job well. And I’ve lost some confidence in that process. #teaching

  • For the same reason, I’m not sure other CWA teachers see me as a particularly good teacher. Maybe they do, but they haven’t said anything to that effect. Who knows. But I am! Right? It’s frustrating.

First Robotics Team meeting. This is mostly high schoolers, which means I’ll be working with students from all three divisions this year, which is an exciting change.

  • Long term, it’s really going to be important for me to work with students old enough to have meaningful conversations with.

Longform: Jon Caramanica, host of the NYT Popcast

  • This guy loves his job.

  • “I like to interview people… very early in their careers, or very late in their careers. I think vulnerability, and willingness to be vulnerable, is at a peak in those two parts. Young enough not to know better, old enough not to give a damn.… In the middle, when your primary obsession is… ‘How do I keep my spot?’, I’m not as interested in that”

  • “[With] someone early in their career, [when] you look them in the eye, and you make it clear that you understand the art that they’re making, that you appreciate it, that you understand where it comes from, that you understand the big picture of it: that sticks with people.”

  • “One of the reasons I like [my job] is it’s constantly changing, it keeps me on my toes, it forces me to pay attention.”

  • I love that teaching keeps me connected to pop culture. At least in terms my cultural awareness, I don’t plan to ever get old.

Tom Gauld: Motivational Posters for Scientists

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee10: Ellen DeGeneres


Hershey’s Gold bar, caramel + peanuts + pretzels

Some feedback from 265:

  • “It was all very valuable learning and I will use these skills throughout the rest of my career.”

  • “Projects were carefully presented in a way that made sense with the progress of our VCD skills. There was always plenty of information presented; Prof Sparano readily showed interesting examples of any concept he was trying to explain, no matter how small. It made learning vcd incredibly exciting. If you needed more inspiration or information on any subject in class, a wide library of url links to sites where you could find additional information was provided, so your learning could continue indefinitely. Projects were challenging, and you received feedback almost every class, either from the prof himself or another student. Lastly, Prof seemed genuinely excited when students learned or did well. That is an exceptionally rare thing, especially in an intro level university art class.”

  • “the aspects of learning bad and good [VCD] are something that I valued a lot from taking from this class. I go around now and I can identify why something has good design or bad design based off of what I learned in class and I have the ability to express why it is bad or good.”

  • “examples examples examples”

  • “having the final project be a project where we had the freedom to design whatever we wanted was genius and felt like a reward for completing the course.”

  • I try to orchestrate my classes into a kind of adventure. I want there to be an overall arc, and I try to bring it satisfying conclusion. Ideally, 1. students learn a specific new skill during each project, and then 2. the final project allows them to apply all of those new skills. It’s a test, but one that I hope students feel prepared and excited for — to see themselves design the thing they wanted to design when they signed up for the class.

Why Are Design Industry Pros Shamelessly Good at Self Promotion?

  • I think there’s a larger pattern at play. Critical self-reflection is antithetical to the success of the UX/product/graphic design industries — which absolutely thrive on shallowness and BS. The people working in these industries and the people paying for their work enjoy and respond to its lack of depth: 1. the designers tend to be people who (like me) enjoy surface-level details (images, texture, color) and want to do that work, and 2. the clients and the audience tend to reward and prefer that work.

  • Also, much of the work done in the name of ‘design’ is really just marketing, so promotion is the business that many, many ‘designers’ are in anyway. Being skilled self-promoters isn’t the least bit surprising.

  • “Just as we are living curated lives on our social networks and fabricating perfect versions ourselves, many [design industry pros] are also doing this with our work.”

  • Yes, except design industry pros pioneered the techniques that the average tween/influencer/entrepreneur now uses to construct their image on social media.

The Work Behind The Work: Inspiration for Monument Valley’s Levels


Searching Not Great™

  • One reason this is disappointing is that the format (viewing everything through a screen) isn’t meaningfully tied to the story — it’s a gimmick. Unlike the Unfriended movies, where the stories are about Internet culture.

5 Things We Need to Know About Technological Change — Neil Postman

  • 1. “that we always pay a price for technology; the greater the wonders of a technology, the greater will be its negative consequences. 2. “that there are always winners and losers, and that the winners always try to persuade the losers that they are really winners.” 3. “that there is embedded in every great technology an epistemological, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not. The printing press annihilated the oral tradition;… the computer, perhaps, will degrade community life. And so on.” 4. “technological change is not additive; it is ecological, which means, it changes everything and is, therefore, too important to be left entirely in the hands of Bill Gates.” 5. “technology tends to become mythic; that is, perceived as part of the natural order of things, and therefore tends to control more of our lives than is good for us.”

  • This has inspired an idea for an exercise with the 5th graders: 1. students collect images of technology in their lives, 2. try to write a definition of what technology even is, then 3. I can ask them (in kid-friendly ways) to consider each of these five things. #lesson

  • “Think of the automobile, which for all of its obvious advantages, has poisoned our air, choked our cities, and degraded the beauty of our natural landscape.”

  • “A new medium does not add something; it changes everything. In the year 1500, after the printing press was invented, you did not have old Europe plus the printing press. You had a different Europe.”

  • “[Entrepreneurs] are by definition not only personal risk takers but… cultural risk takers. The most creative and daring of them hope to exploit new technologies to the fullest, and do not much care what traditions are overthrown in the process or whether or not a culture is prepared to function without such traditions.”

Blinkist: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

  • “Public shaming doesn’t just harm the individual, though. It also creates an atmosphere of terror [for everyone else].”

  • “Acting violently toward others is sometimes an attempt to restore self-esteem that’s been damaged by shame. People sometimes feel that when they victimize others, they are no longer powerless victims themselves.”

Conner Youngblood: Cheyenne Good™


I really like that when I want to go somewhere in Tacoma, I just get in the car, drive there, park, and that’s it. I don’t miss the time-consuming, pain-in-the-ass-ness of getting around in Seattle. #denseme tropolis

God damn it. I missed Chuck Klosterman at the UW Book Store in May. And this is on top of having missed Hasan Minhaj that same week.

The Cultural Value of Video Game ROMs

  • When I sold my Nintendo collection last year, I downloaded a bunch of the ROMs for those games (from Emuparadise and similar sites).

Away August


There are times when I recognize that, earlier, I had a really odd lapse in thinking/logic that seemed totally normal at the time. They’re usually small things, but they do make me question my grasp on reality.

  • Example: in an email to a teacher yesterday, I called Nile (5th grader) “Niles” — twice. I remember writing it, and it wasn’t a mistake (at the time). I know Nile pretty well, and I know exactly what his name is. Pretty strange.

Made a landing page for

  • This is built with Persona, which is pretty slick.

  • I think I’m ready to switch this site (joesparano​.com) up, visually.

Lazy Devs: Developing Breakout in PICO-8 + Breakout Hero, the playable game

  • juicy: “constant and bountiful user feedback. A juicy game element will bounce and wiggle and squirt and make a little noise when you touch it. A juicy game feels alive and responds to everything you do – tons of cascading action and response for minimal user input. It makes the player feel powerful and in control of the world”

  • I’ve been looking for a word like this! When I give students feedback, I’ve been using the words ‘finished’, ‘complete’, and ‘professional’, but ‘juicy’ is maybe a more satisfying version of what I mean.

  • Pico Checkmate, a juicy chess game

  • a toy: “a game without a goal” #design

Shenmue’s Greatest Moment: After Midnight

You Made It Weird: Patton Oswalt

  • “I hope [as a new comedian] you have one night of just absolute flame-out disaster on stage. So you can… have that experience of, you wake up the next day, ‘Oh, the world didn’t end!’ And then you lose that fear.”

  • I’ve had moments in class that felt like disasters (maybe not flame-out level) — but definitely embarrassing. And I am over that fear now. Taking risks on new projects and exercises feels like part of the process. And I feel confident knowing that, if they don’t work, risk-taking (iterating, prototyping — as the designer of the class) is an essential part of my job. #theprocess

  • Last year, I told Color & Comp students exactly that (with emotional-Joe sincerity), after trying a ridiculous Dropbox-uploading experiment that was really confusing, took way too long, and seemed poorly-planned.

New York Times: Op-Docs, short documentaries

Jerry Builds Bricks, LEGO car instruction videos


Recognizing that my experience teaching 5th grade last year was at least a little traumatic for me. I dreaded going into those classrooms (which I already knew). But walking by those same rooms this year — which have new teachers (who are more invested), and whose students are last year’s 4th graders (who I have a great connection with) — there’s a whole weight that’s been lifted. {#classof2025}

  • It’ll be interesting to see how/if all of that changes as puberty takes hold.

One of the hard things about teaching younger kids is that it’s difficult to legitimately connect with them. That’s a given, and I’m OK with it. But there are students who (I feel like) I haven’t just not-not connected with — but who’ve decided they don’t like me. (I experienced it today sitting with a group of 4th grade boys at lunch.) And it gets to me.

  • My feeling is based on subtle queues… that I may be misinterpreting. And I have no idea what they’re actually thinking. And I don’t expect to be every student’s favorite teacher. And, even I don’t remember giving much of a shit about my teachers in elementary school. But it’s not just in my head. I have very different relationships with the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders.

  • But I’m not sure what accounts for the difference. Maybe it’s just age. Maybe it was the fun-ness of my lessons in those grades. Maybe there are things I do/say while I’m teaching that create distance. (Overall, I definitely have stronger connections with students whose classes were easier for me to manage… But which came first?)

  • I want the kids to like me, and when they don’t (or, at least, when they don’t seem to — to me), I tend to feel like I’ve failed them somehow in the past. Maybe that’s reasonable, maybe it’s not.

The Amazing Life-size LEGO Technic Bugatti Chiron that DRIVES!

  • Large-scale LEGO builds aren’t that interesting to me. At a certain point, it doesn’t feel like problem-solving anymore.

  • Especially compared to the minifig-scale Chiron (which I have). Now that’s interesting!

Tiny Homes Will Not Fix The Housing Crisis

  • “tiny homes have become increasingly fetishized by lifestyle sections and design blogs over the past few years, selling the fantasy of simplicity and decluttered space to the masses of people who feel trapped by mortgages, large homes, and the never-ending accumulation of pointless possessions which provide an instant of joy and a lifetime of baggage.”


First day of school. (My first-first day, since I started in October last year.)

  • Which means I’m officially a full-time teacher! Like, my job is going to a school, five days a week (except for no-school days, which there are plenty). My office is in a library. I get my lunch from a cafeteria. I report to the principal. There are smiling kids everywhere. I hear “Mr. Sparano” 50× a day. There’s recess, assemblies, sports. How cool, man!

  • I started teaching 7 years ago (Concept Development, a night class at MCC). And now, here I am, having totally switched careers. #teaching #jobs

Attended my first middle school events this week (an all-school assembly and an orientation for new students). Not surprisingly, the middle school feels a lot different from the elementary school (quieter, more complex, more grounded, more awkward) — in a really good way. It’s a new challenge that I’m looking forward to. And one that I’m maybe better prepared for professionally, and better suited for personally.

  • That said, working with the little kids has grown on me, and I’m glad that’s still part of my job. The energy, straightforwardness, idealism, lack of social awkwardness — it’s an extremely positive and warm place to be, and it feels to good to be back.

Over the years, I’ve developed a ‘teacher voice’ — a tone I use when I’m talking to students that maximizes positivity — right before the point where it might sound disingenuous.

Super Easy Timer, super clear, natural language timer app

  • Showing timers on screen is one of the best ways I can communicate-with and set expectations-for students. Everybody wins.

Bought a Dell UltraSharp 25" Monitor (U2518D) for my desk at CWA. #treatjoeself

Pangram Pangram: A Guide to (Mostly-Free) Helvetica Alternatives

ImageOptim, image optimizer

  • I’m nearing the end of my Creative Cloud subscription, so this is replacing TinyPNG.


SMART Board training at CWA. In theory, this is a cool gadget. But it’s a classic example of technology trade-offs: 1. whatever it brings to the classroom experience (by being a digital, interactive chalkboard) it also 2. introduces new problems/chores (during vacations, cover it with a sheet so it doesn’t get scratched, hide the pens at night so students don’t take them, dust the cameras regularly so the touch screen keeps working). #digitalanxiety

TOYFP (turn off your fucking phone) + CYFL (close your fucking laptop)

Death Cab for Cutie: Thank You for Today Not Great™

The Ringer: Interview with Christopher McQuarrie, director of Mission: Impossible — Fallout

  • “There are very few rules: 1. Ethan has to get a mission, 2. there has to be a team, 3. you have to use the theme song, and 4. Ethan does not want to do any of the things he does.”

  • “Disaster is the opportunity to excel. You welcome chaos into the process because it forces you to be creative.”

  • “The notion of being a brand is terrifying because then you’ve gotta protect that brand [and]… you end up taking yourself too seriously. [I’m] constantly deconstructing [my] brand before it can ever take root.”

  • “in every interview that I give to everybody, I’m having the conversation with someone out there that no one had with me 20 years ago.”

  • “The question that [young filmmakers] are asking me is, ‘How do I make money doing this?… [My answer is], ‘Do you… want to make a lot of money now? It means making something you probably don’t want to make.’”

  • “It’s not: ‘Will you make my movie?’ It’s ‘How can I help you make yours?’”

Video from inside a LEGO Minifigure factory


At the CWA Open House, got to see a bunch of students again (for the first time since summer vacation — school starts in two days). That was fun. It’s crazy: being able to recognize kids getting taller, older, more complex (in just 11 weeks!). I think this job is going to be a real head trip for me — the tragic beauty of growing up. #growingup

  • “Mr. Sparano, did you get shorter?” — 5th grader Emilee

  • Got hugs from several of the 4th graders, which really made my day.

Button-up shirts: they work for me. No doubt. I wish I’d figured this out earlier in my life.

On The Media: Twitch and Live-Streaming

Scott Martin (Burnt Toast): Social Media series — Falling

There’s only one explanation for why people seem to handle email so much more efficiently than I do: they aren’t actually reading it (they’re just skimming). It’s the only way. #email

  • Also, there’s only one explanation for how people can “watch” as much TV as they claim to: they’re not sitting down to watch it, they’re multitasking with it. It’s the only way.

I’ve been helping Frankie work through her comic book story. She’s officially designated me as the Editor and added my name on the pizza box on this page.


Finished the last items on my Summer Digital Cleanup:

  • Updated my Teaching page with more current info. This is now only stuff that’s happened since moving to Seattle, which is pretty cool.

  • Organized a mega list of CWA notes (lesson ideas, readings, advice from other teachers, reflections on my own teaching philosophy) — a list I was dumping stuff into at 10× the rate I could actually do them.

  • Scanned, edited, filed-away, and recycled some of my oversized drawings and prints that (because of their size) felt too cumbersome to keep — a stack of papers that’s been sitting next to my desk for two years.

Two things I scanned: floating microwave perspective drawing from middle school, and an NES lithograph from Printmaking at UNO.

And with that, I’m 100% digitally organized. It was my priority for this summer, and it’s done! {#digitalcleanup}

  • I’ve been procrastinating on many of these digital things for months or years. And this was the digital half of a physical cleanup that I finished earlier this year.

  • This is, I hope, the end of the era of my life where I allow myself to create intimidating piles of tasks. And the end of the phase where I imagine there’ll be time for things that there isn’t time for now.

  • That’s not to say I’ve finished everything I want to. I still have goals for the future — tons. But those are things I’m working towards, rather than things looming in the background that I’m procrastinating to avoid.

  • I recognized this summer that I’m more apt to make progress when I feel like I’m not working against a huge deficit. I have trouble enjoying my free time when I know I have these big projects looming in the background. And that’s been true for years now. Years.

I’m assuming this little dude wanted some Sonic. Seagulls have been an emblem for me of my new life in the PNW — a constant reminder of how far I am from where I used to be.


The Midnight: Nocturnal Good™

Lesson idea: in a real-time class exercise, model the dynamics of how the Internet’s advertising model (and the corresponding Like economy) affects its content: 1. kids choose some ‘content’ to publish (GIFs, memes, videos — maybe things they make themselves), 2. everyone in class ‘pays’ attention through a currency we could visualize (representing traffic, clicks, eyeballs), and 3. we’d watch the economics play out, looking for patterns in the content that gets the most traction. Dope. #lesson

  • Since I started at CWA, I’ve been dropping lesson/project ideas like this into a list, and it’s full of good stuff! (A list that I’m organizing now and has a bunch of sweet ideas I’d forgotten about.)

  • I woke up this morning with this lesson idea — a subconscious connection (I’m assuming) of having read Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now and being back at CWA this week.

  • This job sits at the nexus of places my mind goes, naturally: 1. technology/media (which feels important to be thinking about) and 2. building exercises/sandboxes/games/systems to explore ideas (which is fun to think about). I’m not sitting down with the intent of generating ideas for this list — it just happens. It’s important AND fun for me, which is how I hope the kids feel in my classes, too. #teaching

  • It’s going to take 2–3 years for all of it to coalesce (based on my experience at MCC and UW). But I really think I have the capacity to build some next-level curriculum.

(TED Talk): Christoph Niemann, The Language of Pictures

  • “I want to… make you aware that you already had this image with you, but only now I’ve unearthed it and made you realize that you were carrying it with you all along.”

  • Battery Owl animation

Breachroom, list of recent cyber attacks and data breaches

Illustrator: Puppet Warp tool


At CWA, all employees are asked to install the Panic Button app on their phones for emergency situations. Which (pretty sure) is the right thing to do. Still though, it means I have to be constantly aware of where my phone is (for that 1-in-a-1,000,000 kid injury, fire, or worse) — always.

  • Notifications and texting have opened a bottomless pit of anxiety in our lives. We have to be aware of an important message possibly — but almost definitely not — having arrived, always. And if you miss just one of those important messages: you fail.

  • There was a point, not that long ago (well within my lifetime) when you couldn’t be contacted at any moment. The tipping point is definitely within the last five years. Before then, there were ways of handling emergencies that didn’t require an absurdly complex, individualized, anxiety-inducing system of pocket computers. #digitalanxiety

A good idea is something that does not solve just one single problem, but rather can solve multiple problems at once. — Shigeru Miyamoto

The Royal Ocean Film Society, film and animation video essays

An Audio-Visual Guide to Grandmaster Flash

  • the break: “where all the elements of a song… except for percussion, disappear”


For most of August, I’ve been on an unplanned communication-vacation (communi-cation?). I have multiple unanswered emails from students and unanswered texts from friends. (Not caused by anything in particular — I feel great.) #email

  • In the last days of my summer, it just felt like time to get away.

  • At some time in the last year, email and texting reached a tipping point in my mind of feeling absurdly artificial and time-consuming (a double-whammy). It has very little to do with the people on the other side — I’ve just lost patience for it.

How do you let someone know that they talk too much? I work with a few people at CWA (great people who are good at their jobs) who, when they have the floor, dump (I think) too much information at a time and take too much time doing it.

  • This is something I’m constantly aware of when I’m teaching and in conversations (and maybe I’m too sensitive to it). But, it’s interesting how other people haven’t learned the queues for knowing when listeners have stopped listening (queues that seem pretty obvious to me).

AoM: How Everything Is Funny Now, and Why That’s Bad

  • “Once part of society seems funny, any competitor that’s not funny seems stodgy and old-fashioned by comparison. And so humor spreads like a virus or epidemic.”

  • Hedonic treadmill: “the brain gets used to more and more pleasurable stimuli, and it needs those just to maintain a baseline.”

  • “it’s possible that this is a new kind of dystopia we could be entering. One where, instead of a government oppressing us, we’ve decided to… oppress ourselves just by ignoring serious things in favor of comedy and amusement. And not grappling with the real challenges we have because there’s just too many hilarious distractions on our phone.”

  • “Maybe there are parts of our life that we can keep sincere.… There are little things we can do… to push back against this rise of irony and snark”


At CWA, I sat in on a faculty workshop for planning 70-minute classes, where teachers shared techniques for creating fun and meaningful lessons. It’s exciting that I have so much to learn from the people I’m working with. And I realized, now that I’m entering full-time teaching mode, that my expertise has inverted. Professionally, before CWA, I was the person in the room that knew maybe more about teaching than most other people. But now, the information I have to offer is about technology and design, and my teaching experience has been normalized.

  • It’s pretty cool that two of the things that I’m professionally responsible for now (teaching and technology) are things I learned for fun, as hobbies. I have very little actual training in either.

“Even the nicest neighborhoods have speed bumps.” — Jordan, Bachelor in Paradise

Picular, color palette search tool


KiwiCo, art & science subscription box for kids


I have a CWA MacBook that’s just been gathering dust at school, and I’ve been using my own laptop in both places. On a whim this morning (while organizing my desk for the new school year), I opened up the CWA laptop and used it for the rest of the day. Unexpectedly, two computers actually feels simpler: 1. each place can have its own email inbox and Desktop files, 2. Dropbox syncs any files I’ll need in both places, and 3. I won’t need to remember to bring my computer to school each morning. It’s interesting that, at some point, dual-purposing one MacBook can feel like more work than maintaining two.


Saw Mission: Impossible — Fallout for the third time!

  • The only other movies I watched in the theater three times were The Matrix and The Social Network.

  • “Fate whispers to the warrior.
    There’s a storm coming.
    And the warrior whispers back.…
    I am the storm.”

  • Everyone is wearing awesome jackets in this movie.

  • Rebecca Ferguson, forever.

Dave Grohl: Play Not Great™

Google Calendar: Merge two calendars


An example of why home ownership isn’t for me. I agreed to help paint a small room in a friend’s house, and I’ve hated the whole process: 1. managing all of the specialized tools/supplies it requires, 2. the constant anxiety of making sure paint is only ending up where it’s supposed to (and not permanently ruining other things in the house in the process), 3. the anxiety of doing it well (because it’s permanent and you’ll be reminded of its quality every day), and 4. the time it’s taken (15 hours, during my last week before CWA starts).

  • I agreed to do this in lieu of $100 rent at Aubree’s, which is less than minimum wage. But I didn’t know what I was getting into. This is the first room I’ve ever painted on my own, and I’m trying to do it well (because I would anyway), but it’s also not my house and I don’t want to mess it up.

  • This project is also reiterating that I’ve reached a phase of my life where I need to be personally motivated by whatever I’m spending my time on or it’ll feel like time-wasted (and I’ll get cranky about it). Even when I’m trading that time for money. I couldn't care less about few hundred dollars here and there — time is the priority.

  • I turned down a freelance UI project for Tactile, through Geoff this month. And I’m turning down the chance to help a friend Sarah Jo Ward, for Arcade magazine with another design industry side project thing. I just really want to be doing the things I’ve been waiting to do for too long. #thenextphase

Fresh Air: Bo Burnham, director of Eighth Grade

  • “I was never a 13-year-old girl, but I was also never a 13-year-old now. And… both of those things lend themselves to a specific experience that I can’t know.”

  • “there’s a part of social anxiety… that feels like you’re a little bit disassociated from yourself. And it’s sort of like you’re in a situation, but you’re also floating above yourself, watching yourself in that situation, judging it. And social media literally is that. You know, it forces kids to not just live their experience but be nostalgic for their experience while they’re living it, watch people watch them, watch people watch them watch them.”

  • “the greatest thing you can do for a kid is to empower them to have ownership over the thing they’re working on.”

AoM: Men & Manners

  • “how you dress… shows a lot about who you think you are, but also your respect for the people around you.”

  • This school year, I’m planning to dress a little more sharply than I ever have for a job (wearing button-ups and my glasses, more often). It’s a way of showing respect for the students and the school. I’m making a little more money now (thanks to this job), and it’s a way of re-investing it. The kids deserve it.

  • “when you have arrived at the age where it’s time to do these more mature things [tipping, giving to charity]…. Those seem like the sort of things your grandparents did. And now as we get older, it’s the sort of thing we should be doing too.”

  • “in almost every [social situation], the other person is thinking the same thing as you, and… I think it’s nice to be a person who — in the event of a tie — [is the one who] engages.”

  • “you shouldn’t wear flip-flops where you can’t swim.”

  • FUAY flip-flops

Robert Plant: Carry Fire Good™


Signed up to help coach the CWA Robotics Team.

Bought a Pebble TimeDock charging stand.

Found this in my mailbox at school.

Half-way to my drum savings goal.


Last day of 265.

  • This is the third time I’ve taught this curriculum, and I think it’s reached the place I was hoping for. It’s an introduction to graphic design that: 1. is full of practical strategies, 2. emphasizes learning the strategies by deconstructing real-world examples, 3. explores design process generally, 4. demystifies graphic designer bullshit, and 5. is fun.

  • This was a solid group of students, and I enjoyed going to class. But I wasn’t particularly connected to them (it was no Color & Comp). And still, at the end, I was careful not to go into detail about enjoying the class, or their successes as students, or the power of the skills they learned. Those things tend to send me over the edge emotionally (and I was dangerously close). #teaching

  • Is it better to say those things (which feel important) and risk embarrassment? Or to avoid saying them and spare everyone the awkwardness? Don’t know.

Example 265 final projects, from Stefán and Ellen. The whole class brought their A-game to Project 5. For several students in this class, this quarter was the first time they’ve ever used graphic design software — and nine weeks later, they’re building sophisticated, meaningful visual languages across multiple pieces. I’m really proud of them.

I talk about inspiration a lot in my VCD classes. Originally as one step of the process. But lately as a useful tool in maybe every step (this quarter, more than ever — I surprised myself at how often I mentioned it). And I’m realizing that, in the way I want students to use it, inspiration is a kind of media literacy: 1. what is this thing intended to communicate?, 2. what decisions did the designer make to communicate it?, and 3. how can I use those strategies to communicate my own goals? #medialiteracy

  • Overall, I want my graphic design students to learn how to teach themselves through the things they’re inspired by. I try not to teach towards a style (as much as I’m capable of). It’s a strategy that pays dividends forever (because styles will change), and it leaves room for every student to do work they feel most comfortable doing (as long as they can defend their decisions).

Our last exercise (ExZ) was called VCD & You. My instructions are: “choose 3 VCD items from your life that are personally meaningful to you and reflect on their design and meaning. 1. Why is this item meaningful to you? 2. How do you know this was designed (in what ways does it feel intentional)? 3. What about the design do all 3 items share, and what might those patterns reveal about you as a person and as a designer?”

  • I also did this on the last day of both Color & Comps. It’s such a nice way to wrap up the class.

As an example, I showed my three items: Watchmen, a GameCube controller, and A Light in the Attic.

Gray: a friend for life. Also a big fan of Coke Zero.


Highly Suspect: The Boy Who Died Wolf Good™

@insta_repeat, clichéd Instagram influencer photos #bs


Spent some big money $689 on shirts at Bonobos. #treatjoeself

  • I’ve been working towards this for two years. I rarely wear button-ups because I’ve had trouble finding shirts that fit me in the way I know they can: 1. not too long (which most shirts are for me), and 2. narrowly-tailored (which many shirts claim to be, but aren’t usually enough of). So now, I can buy most shirts in ‘Short + Tailored’ fit and call it a day. This is the store for me, and I’m stoked to have finally found it.

  • Been stocking up on sharper clothes for Back to School® season — which, how cool is it to say that? Very. This is my life now!

  • The person helping me at the store commented, “You’re a tryer-onner.” Yes, I am. I gotta see it on, or I can’t make a decision about it. I guess this is unusual?

NimbleText, CSV manipulation tool


It feels super strange to me to text or email someone while you’re physically close enough to them just talk to face-to-face: 1. it makes me feel like a task-accomplished, and 2. communicating digitally creates distance — it feels artificial. In these situations, I’ll often just walk over to them and ‘reply’ in person.

New Elementary: LEGO Collectable Minifigure designer interview

How the Big Four tech companies are monopolies and why we need to break them up

  • “Google is God (the brain), Facebook is love (the heart), Amazon is consumption (the gut), and Apple (is desirability) sex.”

  • “Consumers aren’t paying $1,000 for an iPhone X because they’re passionate about facial recognition. They’re signaling they make a good living, appreciate the arts, and have disposable income. It’s a sign to others: If you mate with me, your kids are more likely to survive than if you mate with someone carrying an Android phone. After all, iPhone users on average earn 40 percent more than Android users.”

  • “we’ve traded well-paying jobs and economic security for powerful phones and coconut water delivered in under an hour. How did that happen? Since the turn of the millennium, firms and investors have fallen in love with companies whose ability to replace humans with technology has enabled rapid growth and outsize profit margins.… The result is a winner-takes-all economy, both for companies and for people. Society is bifurcating into those who are part of the innovation economy (lords) and those who aren’t (serfs).… It’s never been easier to be a billionaire or harder to be a millionaire.”

  • 2018 goal: Find alternatives for as many Google, Amazon, and Apple things as I can. (Facebook: check.) #goals


One drawback about Tacoma: unlike Seattle, there’s not a city mandate for commercial recycling and compost.

  • Trash — specifically the mental image of things I’ve thrown away sitting in landfills for millennia — is a consistent source of anxiety for me. That’s been true since recycling became a major thing in our culture (sometime in my preteen years).

Bought a Quip toothbrush. Great™

  • I love this thing. There’s no charging cable or docking stand, no modes/features, no choices for replacement brush heads.

  • This feels like it was designed specifically to be the non-bullshit alternative in an industry that thrives on generating sales through disingenuous ‘innovation’, artificial choices, and unnecessary features. {#BS}

  • Another media literacy milestone from my life: I remember discovering that several of the most popular laundry detergents ‘competing’ against each other were all manufactured by Procter & Gamble (Cheer, Gain, and Tide).

Behind-the-scenes footage of Mission: Impossible — Fallout stunts

  • Saw M:I again today — what a movie! It has the feeling of having been designed for the sake of ultimate movie-ness — I live for it. Great™, for sure.

  • That’s three Great™s already in 2018 (after two years without any).

  • At the last two movies I’ve seen, I managed to eat only half of the bag/box of candy I purchased, which is a big step for me.

Still hate grading. Why? 1. writing clearly and succinctly is hard (it should be short enough for students to want to read it), 2. translating thoughts into feelings is hard (identifying specifically why students’ decision-making is successful/not is something I can do with the best of them, but it takes time and energy to do it precisely), 3. describing visual things in writing is hard, 4. it requires using multiple apps simultaneously (1 for viewing the PDF, 1 for writing, 1 for submitting grades).

  • Thinking about this while grading for 265, which (as usual) I’ve been procrastinating on (it’s only 4–5 hours of work, but I’ve been avoiding it for a week).


teleology: the study of design and goals, or an explanation of something in terms of its design and goals — from Greek: telos (end, goal, purpose) and logos (reason, explanation). #design

critical pedagogy: a way of teaching that encourages students to question the very processes of teaching and learning — in order to question their own understanding of their own lives, and act on it. #teaching

  • “Advocates of critical pedagogy view teaching as an inherently political act, reject the neutrality of knowledge, and insist that issues of social justice and democracy itself are not distinct from acts of teaching and learning.”

  • “students have previously been lulled into a sense of complacency by the circumstances of everyday life, and… through the processes of the classroom, they can begin to envision and strive for something different for themselves.… to separate themselves from unconditional acceptance of the conditions of their own existence.”

  • “[A]s teachers relinquish the authority of truth providers, they assume the mature authority of facilitators of student inquiry and problem-solving. In relation to such teacher authority, students gain their freedom — they gain the ability to become self-directed human beings capable of producing their own knowledge.”

Media Literacy Concepts for the 21st Century: prior knowledge, values, normalization, feelings/logic dynamic, family metaphors, and confirmation bias

I love that, every day, I can wake up in anticipation of learning something new and super valuable. Every day.

An International Design Student’s Struggle to Obtain an H-1B Visa — Peiran (UW Design class of 2017)

Cabana + Frames + UX Power Tools, digital product design systems

  • These are interesting to me because, if whizz-bang, glossy UI is easy for anyone to apply, it should force the hand of the people evaluating that designer’s skills to focus on the more meaningful decision-making. Maybe! {#BS}

Title Capitalization Tool

Vox by Design: How Juul Made Nicotine Cool

Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now — Jaron Lanier Good™

  • “What [was] called advertising must now be understood as continuous behavior modification”

  • “We were all in the same stew, manipulating each other, inflating ourselves.… I just stopped using the stuff because I didn’t like who I was becoming.”

  • I used Facebook (from 2010–2013) then Twitter and Instagram (from 2012–2015), regularly and intentionally. But, it was changing my behavior in ways I didn’t like. I wasn’t proud of: 1. how much time I spent writing posts and editing photos, 2. looking for ways to co-opt moments of my day as content, 3. how much I cared about followers and likes, and generally 4. how I treated my accounts as self-promotional mechanisms. Gross. And I stopped in 2015 when the shame and absurdity eventually crystalized.

  • In 2014, I was dating a girl Kelsey who spent (what felt like) a lot of time and energy managing her social media persona. It was a little disturbing to watch from my perspective — but it was just a version of the things I was doing, too. Recognizing that was a tipping point for me.

  • “The version of the world you are seeing is invisible to the people who misunderstand you, and vice versa.”

  • “It’s as if, instead of one football game being played at a time, there’s always a global game that takes up the whole earth, with everyone pitted against everyone else and most of us always losing. Worst sport ever.”

  • I’ve been thinking about this — the way the Internet globalizes competition. Where once-local competitions (jobs and dating, for example) have intensified to unnatural, unreasonable, unhealthy levels.

  • “There are Silicon Valley people who believe that everything in the world can be reinvented/disrupted by tech startups. We’ll disrupt medicine, education, transportation, even the cycle of life and death, but we have a blind spot about our basic method of operation [the advertising model]. We have enshrined the belief that the only way to finance a connection between two people is through a third person who’s paying to manipulate them.”

  • “Memes may seem to amplify what you were saying, but that is always an illusion. You might launch an infectious meme…, and you might be making a great point, but in the larger picture, you are reinforcing the idea that virality is truth. Your point will be undone by whatever other point is more viral.”

Cancelled MoviePass. The program changed from 30 movies @ $10/month to 3 movies @ $15/month. Still a deal, but I’d only save $15–20/month — absolutely not worth the trouble of having an app and a card to worry about.

  • I’ve been bailing out of loyalty programs and rewards cards altogether (as much as is possible, anyway). I’d rather just spend a little extra to be anonymous and reduce the anxiety of apps/cards/logins.

  • The Baker’s Card was the first application of surveillance capitalism I can remember. But at the time (early 90s), I remember thinking it was a progressive and exciting step in technology.

  • FUAY loyalty program


Added four LEGO minifigs to the collection: Shaq, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Brick Suit Guy.

  • Bought these at Bricks & Wheels, a fan-run LEGO store.

  • Big fan of Shaq. He’s a super real dude who seems to be making the most of his life. And his rookie year was 1992, when I first started following the NBA.

NYT Popcast: The false promises of the infinite jukebox (the Internet)

strong vulnerability: “a diplomat of the emotions who manages carefully to unite… self-confidence and independence [with] a capacity for closeness, self-revelation and honesty.… [They] know how to confess with authority to a sense of feeling small. They can sound in control even while revealing that they have an impression of being lost.” — School of Life

  • I think about this a lot. I try to be transparent about what’s on my mind (when it’s helpful). But I haven’t fully figured out how to do that with confidence. When I handle it poorly (as I’ve done in class or in relationships, countless times), the situation becomes more complex — it’s now also about me and the weirdness of the situation.

  • Why is this important? Because: 1. when people present their thoughts and feelings accurately, it gives everyone else an accurate perception of what’s healthy or reasonable to feel themselves, and 2. it allows everyone in the room to make decisions about the situation as it actually is. #realness

  • It’s a major reason why I publish fairly personal things to this site so proactively, why social media feels so toxic to me, and why the design industry’s tendency to hide the process pisses me off.

  • This feels especially important to me now, working with kids — showing that it’s normal to have complex thoughts and feelings and modeling how to handle them gracefully.

BlacKkKlansman Good™

a system: has parts; those parts are connected; and through their connection, those parts serve a purpose. #design


The Ringer: Former Bachelor/ettes discuss what it’s like to be the runner-up

  • With this show, I’m hearing people say, more often, that the significant moments have all been edited to seem that way — attributing the “narrative” to someone behind the scenes, pulling the strings. That’s absolutely possible (the editors have an incentive to make the show interesting). But I think it’s a sad, slippery slope to assume editing is ALWAYS responsible — to close the door to realness entirely — in any aspect of our lives. A healthier perspective is to consider that either editing OR realness is possible. #realness #medialiteracy

  • The assumption of editing is an example of design cynicism.

  • The main reason this show continues to be interesting to me (and, I think, continues to feel relevant culturally) is that it’s as much about relationships as it is about how we present ourselves to the world. The conversations I have with friends about this show are mostly just about those things generally.


I told Dad today (seriously, but surprisingly collectedly) that I’m nervous about him leaving his junk behind for me to clean up when he dies. It was a response to him saying that, while he may own a lot of junk and three houses, it isn’t a problem for anyone else. And while that’s true today, it won’t be if/when he’s gone. He agreed, which I appreciate, but it should’ve occurred to him before today.

The Big Lebowski Not Great™

In online dating, people tend to message people more desirable than themselves

  • The Internet has made all of this so ridiculous. I’m still trying to figure out how to avoid it (at my own peril).

  • “for men, [desirability] peaks at 50.”

  • Well that’s something! I’ve still got 11 years.

Ultimate Lorem Ipsum Generator, with origins, meaning, and variations


Bought a ticket to the Warriors-Kings game in Seattle on Oct. 5. This’ll be my second NBA game.

  • It’s $300 (a lot), but here’s my thinking: 1. I want to support the NBA returning to Seattle, 2. it’s the first NBA game in Seattle since the Sonics left (in 2008), 3. Kevin Durant was originally a Sonic, 4. it’s the last event at KeyArena, 5. the current Warriors are one of the best teams of all time, and 6. I want to go to an NBA game, and spending the money it takes to do that is one of the luxuries of adulthood — it’s exactly an opportunity to spend money I’m careful not to spend otherwise so that I have money for things like this. #treatjoeself

  • Between choosing the ticket and buying it, I actually did stop to make a list (mentally) of the reasons why this might be worthwhile.

Totally caught up on journaling. I even added some notes from late 2017, which feels pretty silly to have procrastinated on for that long. Still, valuable to have processed and coalesced into writing. (There’s some good stuff in there, particularly with CWA interview and hiring.) {#digitalcleanup}

  • New plan: 25 minutes, first-thing in the morning and 25 minutes, last-thing at night. (50 minutes/day seems short enough to make time for, but still long enough to be worthwhile. And it does feel most valuable at the beginning or end of the day — so maybe both!)

  • Also going to keep a Seinfeld Productivity Chain for journaling in Goals.

CSS/JS: Prevent browser caching by adding timestamps

For 265, a sheet of typographic tips/guidelines I’ve collected over the years. This sheet is ITSELF an example of the rules on the sheet, which is a very Joe thing to do — booyah!


LEGO in Real Life: Wordworking animation


Big Trouble in Little China Not Good™


Bitsy Game Maker, minimal pixelated RPGs

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies Good™

  • “The Detronium Crystal… the perfect plot device!”

  • This made me laugh, and I love meta-anything. But what’s the difference between meta (which I appreciate) and irony (which I have no patience for)?

Tour of an average Japanese home

Lessons from the Screenplay: Mission: Impossible, The Perfect Heist

  • goals, obstacles/constraints, plans/designs, communication, and improvisation (problem-solving). #design


Illustrator/InDesign: Align objects side-by-side with Distribute Spacing = ‘0’

  • I’ve wondered if this was possible for ages, and it was there the whole time.

You Made It Weird: Jimmy Kimmel

  • “I spent the whole day talking to myself…, ‘I can get through this [talking about David Letterman’s retirement on-air].’… [But] as soon I began to speak I started to cry.… As I’m talking…, my brain is going, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?! You fucking asshole.’”

  • For this reason, I’m starting to worry about the last day in 265. I’m having fun, I really like the students, I’ll likely never see them again after this quarter, and that’s a recipe for emotional Joe.


In 265, the day where I introduce the concepts of ‘Series & Visual language’. Which is still super fun for me. Showed lots of examples — things like Matt Madden’s ‘20 Lines’, Ryan Putnam’s ‘Character Studies’, and Phantom City’s Back to the Future posters.

  • This is exactly the kind of thing that’s fun to let the students discover themselves — through asking the right questions (in this case, about consistency and variety), paired with the right examples on screen.


Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee10: Dave Chappelle

  • “The idea takes you were it wants to go.… [it’s] in the car honking, going ‘Let’s go.’ It pulls up in front of your house. And you’re in your pajamas. You get dressed.… ‘Where are we going?’ ‘Don’t worry about it, you’ll see.’”

  • “Everybody thinks the guy on the stage is the fake.… The guy on the stage, that’s the real guy. The guy off the stage, he’s the one that lies to people, or doesn’t say what he actually thinks”

  • Connects back to Batman vs. Bruce Wayne.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee10: Hasan Minhaj

  • “[a great comedian is] risking their dignity and comfort and potential embarrassment for my benefit, not… for their benefit. This is how an audience decides if they like you or not.”

  • Fits my theory on Great™ teaching.

Consuming time July


Officially moved to Tacoma. Goodbye dense metropolis.

  • My goal for this move was to fit all of my stuff (except furniture) in my car — which I didn’t do. It took 3 carloads.

This Is Not A Conspiracy Theory Podcast #1

  • “I wanted to… make the ultra ambitious [magnum opus] thing that’s been lurking somewhere in my imagination since I was a teenager.”

  • I know this feeling. Or, at least, I feel driven by personal project ideas. But I don’t have a magnum opus in the works. If there’s one cooking (subconsciously), it’ll almost certainly be at the nexus of things I think about most of the time (design, realness, teaching/learning, the process).

  • In hours-spent, this site will be probably be the biggest thing I’ll have done in my life (assuming I keep it up, which I intend to). But it’s not the kind of project Kirby is talking about.

Perfect Bid: The Contestant Who Knew Too Much Good™

  • Did it. 31 movies. 8 with MoviePass.

A record of how tiny of an apartment I lived in for two years — 210 ft2.


A thing I’ve learned from living in a tiny apartment: although it’s possible to fit lots of things in a small space (and I’m pretty good at figuring out how to do that), it requires lots of rearranging things and opening/closing boxes — which is tedious and time-consuming.

Oddball, bouncy-ball drum machine

You Made It Weird: Andy Samberg

AoM: The Self-Driven Child, teaching kids to make decisions

  • “young people… have an increasingly external locus of control…. social media is the most externalizing thing you can experience, where you post something and wait for other people to judge you.”

  • “a sense of control doesn’t mean that, ‘I’m supposed to able to control everything’. What it means is that, ‘I’m not passive,… and I’m not just a pawn in the universe — that I can make decisions, I can direct my own life.’” #design

  • “a brain network called the Default Mode Network… activates when we’re not actively doing anything else. When it engages, it’s perspective-taking: we [reflect on our lives].… We worry a lot about kids that just don’t have enough time where they can really be bored and just left alone with their own thoughts.”


The last day, hopefully forever, of using public laundry machines. The card readers at my apartment are ridiculously bad at their jobs (regularly, I’ll have to swipe 30, 40, 50 times — minutes of swiping). It’s so goddamned frustrating. #digitalanxiety

Goat Not Great™

Green Good™

I’m also tired of Seattle traffic — this is a Sunday!


I’m so tired of the way people in Seattle act as if strangers are invisible. Most days, inevitably, I’ll nearly bump into someone who’s looking right through me. So ridiculous. #hello? #GMTFOH

  • Four years in, and I still haven’t acclimated to The Freeze. I hope I never do.

Countdown to the new apartment: 14 weeks.

Re-watched the Dark Knight trilogy as a triple feature.

  • Reevaluating my ratings: Batman Begins Good™, The Dark Knight Great™, The Dark Knight Rises Not Great™.

  • Coincidence: this month is the 10th anniversary if TDK. I had no idea!

  • “Justice is about harmony. Revenge is about making yourself feel better.”

  • My favorite thing about this trilogy is how each threads Batman and multiple villains together through a central theme: 1. fear (vengeance vs. justice), 2. design (chaos vs. order), and 3. power (rich vs. poor).

  • “[Bruce Wayne] is your mask. Your real face is the one the criminals now fear.”

  • What about escalation? We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor-piercing rounds. And [now] you’re wearing a mask, jumping off rooftops…”

  • I think about this all the time, in different ways. Culturally (things like advertising, noise pollution, climactic battle scenes), where the bar for what’s interesting/attention-grabbing is constantly moving forward. Technologically (things like captchas, password managers, 2-factor authentication): where using the Internet becomes more complex as we have to prove, in more ridiculous ways, that we aren’t robots.

  • “The mob has plans. The cops have plans. Gordon’s got plans. You know… they’re schemers. Schemers trying to control their little worlds. I’m not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are.… You were a schemer. You had plans. And, uh… look where that got you.” — The Joker #design

  • “One man’s tool is another man’s weapon.”

The Dark Knight built Gotham out of Chicago shooting locations

  • Totally coincidentally, I was on vacation with Kristin in Chicago when Batman Begins was in production (August, 2004), and I just happened to catch filming of this turn or maybe this one from the Tumbler chase. Which included seeing the new Batmobile in person when its design was still a secret. For a mega Batman fan like me, that’s a solid gold, special life moment.

From 2004. This is from a second night we found filming in progress on Lower Wacker Drive. I didn’t have a camera with me on the first night, which at the time, was the norm.


LEGO Functionalist Family House

Last class at TITLE. This gym was the main reason I chose an apartment in Greenwood (to be within walking distance), and I’ll miss that about it. But after 2¾ years, I’m ready to switch it up.

  • I’m planning to keep boxing on my own: 1. it’s been too valuable of an addition to my life to stop, 2. punching stuff is helpful for me exercise-wise — but emotionally, too, and 3. it’s given me a new, complex thing to learn about and get better at, that 4. I do just for me.

Vox Borders: Hong Kong

In the Mood for Love Good™

Too Funny to Fail Good™

Pebble Authenticator app


Reflecting more about which classroom situations irritate me (so I can be more cautious about letting that show): it really bugs me when students don’t ask questions, given the opportunity (and I do give them lots of opportunities). Especially when I can tell they have a question to ask. And extra-especially when it’s a question maybe lots of students are wondering about. And super-extra-especially when I receive anonymous feedback later that something (which I could’ve clarified in class) wasn’t clear.

  • What can I do about this? I could work harder to build a vibe where students feel comfortable asking potentially ‘embarrassing’ questions. I think non-Design students are often intimidated by their pre-existing impression of graphic designer culture, which is full of exclusive, pretentious bullshit. I think I already do a better job than most to combat this, but I can find ways to open the door further.

Mission: Impossible — Fallout Good™ Great™

  • “Hope is not a strategy.” #design

  • Vanessa Kirby, forever.

FUAY insincerity


Packing up my stuff for the move (this weekend). I have a ton less than I moved in with — all that’s left are things that I still want to keep (LEGO, books, life memorabilia) or need (clothes, furniture). But I’m disappointed at how much stuff I still own. It feels like a burden. And it seems more possible than ever that, some day, I could let the non-essentials go and get by with nearly nothing.

  • My anxiety about stuff is one of the major reasons why, I think, I’m so hesitant about starting a family. Generally, there’s a lot of stuff that comes along with that phase of life.

  • A bonus of teaching technology is that (since my materials are digital) I don’t have many supplies to manage.

You Made It Weird: Penn Jillette

  • “I would like to allow you to define your own goals for life. [Rather than telling you what success is.]” #design

  • “‘One of the big differences between me and a non-artist person is I write [my thoughts] down.… everything, all the time.’”

  • “‘My basic feeling about atheism is that you don’t want to get between you and your life.’ … ‘If you’re always looking at the world… at god as an object,… you’re always one thought away.’”

  • “Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees.” — Paul Valéry

  • “I don’t believe other people believe in god.… I watch people in the checkout counter at the supermarket,… and there’s a tabloid newspaper that says ‘Aliens Have Landed in South Dakota’…. If that person believed that, they wouldn’t pay for the magazine, they wouldn’t pay for their groceries, they would go right to Dakota. Their whole life falls apart.”

  • “If you have the religion of the area you grew up in (once you tell me that truth is cultural), I’m very skeptical.”

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond Good™

  • “Every time you open your mouth, you learn something about yourself.… when you improvise, the choices you make are always very revealing of who you are. Because there’s really nothing in there but the truth.”

  • “This is the dome. This isn’t real, you know? This is a story. There’s the avatar you create and the cadence you come up with that is pleasing to people, and takes them away from their issues, and it makes you popular, and then at some point, you have to peel it away. And, you know, it’s not who you are.”

HTTPS (for websites) Is Easy!, Cloudflare tutorial


Adobe Live, real-time tutorials

Pebble: Dictation works again (thanks to Rebble) + IFTTT Pebble app

  • So, I can send notes to myself with my watch now. I just hold a button, and say something like, “journal I can send notes to myself with my watch now.” it’s sent to IFTTT which then adds it to Tasks.txt (via Dropbox).

  • And I’ve set IFTTT to do different things with the note, depending on whether the first word is ‘task’, ‘journal’, or ‘buy’. Neat!


Kirby Ferguson: Diversity Enables Complex Problem-Solving

Illustrator: Curvature Tool

The Ringer: How Constant Connectivity Killed the Online/Away Status

  • “Once upon a time, being online was fun, and it was an activity unto itself.… [But] the mobile web allowed users to put the internet in their pockets and walk away; [so] the away message is meaningless, because no one with a smartphone is ever truly away.”

  • I couldn’t appreciate it at the time, but communicating in the early days of the Internet was better: 1. I had more control over how/when messages would be sent in my direction (away status, or, since it was dial-up, not being online most of the time), 2. there were fewer people who could message me digitally (few of my friends had Internet access, and texting wasn’t free yet), and 3. offline messages (phone calls and letters) were just straight-up harder to send, as they’d always been — which was a nice barrier to entry. We’re too connected. I hate it.

  • My original AOL name was feldfan (as in, Seinfeld).


Figured out how to configure Hazel to automagically upload my changes to this site. So now, all I have to do is edit in FoldingText and save. Dang!

Blinkist, nonfiction book summaries

Classroom management strategy: Cell Phone Charging Station

  • “this approach created… an atmosphere of adult trust. Students are treated like adults with a choice, not children with rules.”

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot Good™

  • “Write your problems on paper, crumple them up and throw them into the basket.”

  • “this isn’t the complaint department. We don’t want to hear about [other people]. Talk about yourself.… What about them MAKES you complain?”

  • “Being a model to the world, eternal virtue will be yours, and you return to the boundless.” — Lao Tzu

Vox Borders: Why Japan has so many vending machines

Game Maker’s Toolkit: Making Games Better for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing


I update most pages on this site pretty often (weekly, if not more).

You Made It Weird: Mark Duplass

  • “[Mike Birbiglia] tells people that he’s where he wants to be [an only moderately-famous comedian], and no one believes him.”

  • “As someone who can write an episode of Room 104, [I’m] irreplaceable. That’s what I’m honing in on these days.… Put me at that computer. Nobody can beat me if there’s 30 minutes to write a script.… When you want the [super-intense challenge] because you know you’re the best: you’re in right spot.”

  • Everyone’s got their receptors out to get, [but] you came in giving.

  • This podcast so matches where I’m at in my life right now.

Bonobos: Travel Jeans (Slim Fit)

  • These are it, the pants of my dreams.

  • I went all-in and bought 5 colors. It’s a lot of money, but the older I get, the more reasonable it seems to spend whatever it takes to own clothes I feel confident wearing. It’s an investment that affects so many other parts of my life.

How to beat LinkedIn, The Game

  • This convinced me to delete my LinkedIn account, which I’ve been considering for awhile. It felt hypocritical to be maintaining any social media profile (this was my last one). Especially one that felt like a silly obligation all along. (Contrary to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which I originally enjoyed and saw value in.)

  • One of the reasons people continue to use social media (in spite of its absolute, disturbing awfulness) is that it’s socially and professionally risky not to maintain accounts. (Pretty often, people are surprised to find out that I don’t use Instagram, at least. This used to happen about Facebook.) If social media is going to disappear (or at least be redesigned), a few people have to be willing to bail out first.

  • For the reason, I wrote: “social media is killing us all from the inside.”

The Selfishness of Google Duplex

  • “our smartphones are no longer about conversing but more about transfers of information.”

  • “it’s more likely that this technology, like others before it, will just encourage us to further distance and focus only on ourselves”

Unfriended: Dark Web Good™

  • This kind of movie is so up my alley — it has a very specific shtick, explores it in lots of ways, maximizes all the variations, and embraces it to the end. Loved it.

The Ringer: The Best Movie Trailers Since 1990

Stefan Dziallas (iconwerk), icon designer


At the workshop, curriculum developers from visited for a Q&A. Interesting because I almost applied for that job last year — which seemed like an ideal balance of instructional design (lesson planning), design research (designing for students/teachers), and Seattle design industry perks ($). That may still all be true, and they seem like nice people who enjoy their jobs. But I’m recognizing now that it’s missing maybe the best thing about actually teaching, for me: working with the same kids over time, building those bonds and watching kids grow up.

Eighth Grade Good™

  • “Confidence is a choice.… Like, the really awesome thing about confidence is that you can just start acting like it even if you feel like you don’t have any.”

  • “This is a good conversation between us.”

  • It’d be difficult to design a system that exploits middle school growing pains — egocentricity, insecurity, preoccupation with appearance, sensitivity to social status, poor judgement, emotional immaturity — more than Instagram already does. (This list is from my thesis research.)

Disney TOYBOX, chunky action figures

Thinking about smart gadgets (specifically, my new LIFX lights, Turn Touch, and IFTT): as helpful and cool as the connectivity/automation are, there’s a solid (inevitable) chance that the thing you expect to be happening in the background isn’t happening. Which means you have to: 1. maintain a constant awareness/suspicion of whether or not the system is working, and 2. have a complete understanding of how the components work, to troubleshoot problems. Which means smart gadgets’ claims of worry-free simplicity are frustrating hollow. #digitalanxiety


Realized this recently, and it’s given me a lot of healthy perspective: when I get upset by something someone has said to/about me it’s because (at some level) I agree, or wonder if it might be true. Otherwise, why would it matter?

UNIQLO: Short Socks

  • I didn’t know until yesterday that there’s a UNIQLO in Seattle (which opened 3 years ago). Still pretty cool to me that I’m living in a metropolis big enough that I could never really know all of it.

  • My feet sweat a lot. It’s gross. I’ve been looking for inexpensive, comfortable, quick-drying, anti-odor short socks — and these do the trick!

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints Good™

At the workshop, we’ve each had the chance to teach part of a lesson, so I’ve seen 25+ other teachers teach. I’m learning lots of new strategies for giving instructions, calling attention, troubleshooting, and keeping students engaged. And it’s been helpful to see that, no matter the teacher, classroom management trips everyone up.

  • It’s exciting to me how complex teaching is, how difficult it is to master, and how much I have to learn about it. There are so many ways to do the simplest of things, and the nuances matter.

Just one example of a strategy I learned: cups as a way for students to communicate when they need help — they’d use just one set of these and re-stack to the color they want. Cool!


At the workshop, our group taught an “Introduction to CSS” lesson. I volunteered to do the intro, which included an exercise/worksheet — designing your ideal house, where everyone started with the same floorplan (frame = HTML, personalization = CSS).

  • Effective and the class had fun. Despite speaking to a room full of teachers, I wasn’t nervous. A creative, intuitively-fun exercise that also clearly introduces the concepts — that’s my wheelhouse, and I feel at home doing it.

Let It Be Not Great™

My ideal house, sketched as an example.


ABC-CBV lesson strategy: “activity before concept, concept before vocabulary” #teaching

16 (#07.16)

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.

  • I’m ready for more code in my life. And teaching it 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. I made it!

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.

My Desktop is empty, for the first time in years. It’s now just for things I’m working on, right now. What a feeling! {#digitalcleanup}


Francesca Buchko, illustrator

Big Good™


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

Firefox: IG Helper add-on, Instagram downloader

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

Bought LIFX hubless smart bulbs and a 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 interpret those 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™


A student Asikur asked: “What motivates you to have a website with these kinds of things on it?” (He was asking about Great™s and Goals.) I said: journaling and making lists is helpful for me, and I’m doing that anyway. I’m sharing it in case anyone else is thinking about the same things.

  • I’m trying to be a person who’s as open as I wish more people would be.

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 (2.0) #treatjoeself

  • Chris McVeigh’s sets are at the nexus of three things I love: LEGO, miniaturizations, 80s/90s tech.

Tom Day & Monsoonsiren: Songs for the Living Good™

Disobedience Not Great™

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

PhotoBulk, batch image resizing/compression/export

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 thing 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 think my classroom experiences mean more to me than they do to my students. Which is a weird, vulnerable place to be. It’s one of the hardest aspects of teaching — knowing that no matter how much I invest, some/most students won’t be 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 (Drafts, for instance).

  • 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 (because of 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™


Organized 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?”

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. #email

  • 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) consumes 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.

Example 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 keep a book on this list means it has to be worth the weeks I’ll be investing in it.

  • I’m losing interest in TV shows for the same reason. 10–20 hours seems like a metric-ton of life to devote to any one thing.

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. What did you choose to include or exclude from each shot?, 4. How often do you do re-takes?, 5. Does the camera affect how you think about the situation you’re in and what you say?, 6. Does it affect other people in your video in the same way? #lesson

Firefox: Markdown Link add-on, copy a page’s title + URL in Markdown

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

The Ringer: 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


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

The Take: Mad Men — Peggy Olson, The New Girl

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.”

FUAY feet on movie theater seats

Star Wars Thumb Doodles book

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?

Decision Cave: a place to retreat to when making important decisions. {–}LeBron James


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). #digitalanxiety


Hearts Beat Loud Good™

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

I can get distracted watching a movie or lecture trying to remember a concept or quote I want to remember. Trying a new thing where I record the whole thing and just set bookmarks for the moments I want to reflect on later.

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).

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 be. I need to make time to do this daily: either first-thing in the morning or the last thing at night. Every day.

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.

Nine Inch Nails: Bad Witch Not Great™

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.”


The Ringer: ‘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

  • 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!

At the beginning of a quarter, I’ve been starting a list called ‘Next time’ where I keep notes about changes I’ll make next time I teach the same material. Inevitably, I’ll start adding ideas to it right away, and it’ll fill up throughout the quarter. Then, next time, I’ll fold those notes into my lesson planning. It’s been incredibly useful in iterating on a class, and I regularly find good ideas on the list that I’d forgotten I’d had.

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.”

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.

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 a friends’ house (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, 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.


Drove by my high school, middle school, and elementary school.

  • Norris Elementary has barely changed at all since I was here last (6th grade, 26 years ago).

  • The track at Central Middle School is one of my earliest memories of middle school meanness. Early in 7th grade, two kids (Clint and Ben) (who I considered friends) teased me for the way I was I running. I have really clear memories of that moment, and of being confused about what any of that was for.

  • This year would’ve been my 20-year high school reunion — which I didn't hear anything about and that’s totally fine (because I wouldn't have gone anyway). But it’s interesting to think about.

  • I spend a lot of time on my Omaha trips driving around, intentionally. It’s a good way to open the door to the past.

Norris Elementary + 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.


Visited Toys R Us with Travis and Jer (who I worked with 20+ years ago) before it’s gone forever.

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.

Sand projection thing at the KANEKO Museum.


The Ringer: Can Tech Startups Do Journalism?


Writing progress reports for the CWA kids. Which I’m enjoying! This has been a pleasant surprise of switching to elementary teaching: 1. I only have to grade twice a year, and 2. the grading is qualitative, so my comments are about the students’ effort and aptitudes — about them as people and little learners.

  • It reminds me of when I was student and teachers recognized things in me — things I did well and potential they could see in my future. I like having that responsibility now. Some examples from my favorite students:

  • “It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see [4th grader] Tess pursue a career in technology or teaching. She understands new concepts intuitively, and she enjoys sharing connections, often pushing the class’ conversation to a deeper level. She gravitates toward creative problem-solving opportunities and was particularly invested in our projects that allowed her to build and engineer while also expressing ideas. It’s been wonderful working with her this year, and our Technology class will absolutely lose something without her contributions.”

  • “[4th grader] Madeline brings a lot of attention and precision to her projects in Technology class. She participates often in our class discussions, she uses work time thoughtfully, and she can be trusted to maximize the potential of whatever she does. She especially seems to enjoy visually-oriented projects, and I think she might be a budding graphic designer!”

  • “[3rd grader] Gray seems to enjoy thinking about and working with technology. He makes truly insightful connections during class discussions and he puts an admirable amount of energy and care into his projects. He can be frustrated at times by technical issues, and he can be distracted by that frustration. But he’s shown significant progress compared to earlier in the year during those moments, troubleshooting his own problems and building patience while he waits for help.”

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.”

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



beleduc Wooden Layer Puzzles


I do believe that “there’s a reason for everything” — but not in the god-has-a-plan way. I believe it in the design-way: that you can reverse engineer anything and discover how it came to be, or why you connect with something you connect to. #design


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

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”


It seems that, in many/most social experiences, it’s the burden of everyone to combat the residue of bullshit from everyone elses’ past experiences. I think most people approach new interactions ready to protect themselves. Based, I imagine, on having been burned in the past. {#BS}

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.

  • This is, without a doubt, where I belong — teaching what I’m teaching (technology and media literacy), at the place I’m teaching it (a flexible, supportive, liberal private school), with the people I’m teaching with (absolute pros), and for the students I’m teaching for (cool kids who are a relative breeze to work with). I think I’ve proven that I’m the person for the job, and that I bring more to it than the school expected. And I have so much to learn, still. So much!

  • It’s harder than I expected — in a healthy-challenge way, but also in a disheartening-powerlessness way (i.e. classroom management). And big picture, I’m not sure yet that elementary is the right age for me: younger kids aren’t quite capable of getting invested in the creative process, and I can’t quite connect with them, personally (two important factors in me being the teacher I’m capable of being). But I’ll have the chance to iterate next year, working with older students (in middle school, if not high school), and on bigger, self-directed projects (through, and maybe Robotics clubs). #teaching

Karen (4th grade teacher), said to her students at the end of my class: “I don’t know if you know this, but this is Mr. Sparano’s first year teaching 4th graders. Before this — actually, still [I said, ‘Yesterday!’] — he was teaching college students at the University of Washington.” They thought that was pretty cool, although I’m sure I’ve told them this before. “I think he’s shown humility and perseverance this year [virtues they study].” That was a really special moment!

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

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

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 (maybe) my last Tacoma-to-Seattle rush hour drive (it was a full-on two hours, too). #GMTFOH

Joy Li portfolio website


Last day of 308.

  • It was impossible not to compare it to Color & Comp — which was just last quarter, and a night-and-day difference in classroom experience. I didn’t get emotional, which is unusual for me on a last day. I think most/all of us are happy it’s over.

  • I take some responsibility for the students’ lack of interest: 1. I could’ve worked harder to neutralize my disappointment and frustration, and 2. I taught it as a graphic design basics class (as 308 teachers have done for years now), when it should’ve been a UX/UI class — something I realized, but too late in the quarter (and which I’m not qualified to do anyway).

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.”

Kirby Ferguson: The Iteration Loop (Remix Method #3)


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

macOS: change the Dock animation speed

The Passion Project website

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


Dropped in to see final projects in three UW Design classes. I want to keep up with the sophomores, which I regret not doing with the classes of 2018 and 2019.

Upgrade Not Great™


Last day with the 3rd and 5th graders.

  • Individually, I like these kids. But in groups, I’ve had trouble connecting with them. (Doubly surprising, considering how wonderful 4th grade was.) I’m curious to see what happens next year — will I connect with the 3rd graders when they’re in 4th grade? And will the 4th graders be as challenging for me as the 5th graders were this year?

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 (girls tend to like ‘people’ activities, boys ‘things’ activities). 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 add-on, 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.

  • Favorite Project: You Are Here, by Cameron and Krish

  • It continues to inspire me to watch the UW undergrads work so hard and figure themselves 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.) #email

Several people have asked if the new apartment is a condo. It’s not, and I didn’t even consider looking to buy. I like that renting circumvents all of the stress, responsibility, paperwork, and maintenance of a owning a house. For now, at least, it’s worth it.

FUAY young professional backpack

  • When I was near Amazon today, I saw some kind of YP walking by, with his backpack, skinny highwater pants, fresh haircut, and cool sneakers. It just really pisses me off.

  • Why does this bug me, and so deeply? In my mind: 1. he symbolizes design industry pros who are able to, conveniently, use their professional expertise (of intentionally crafting super-slick fronts) in their personal lives — to twist perception of themselves in their favor. This kind of personal front always weirds me out (hipsterism). But when it’s used by design industry pros, it feels like unfair manipulation. And 2. he also symbolizes the tech industry and its outsized pay.

  • There are serious problems with me making these connections: 1. it’s not fair to this particular guy (I don’t know who he is or what he does professionally) — maybe he’s a genuinely fashionable jackhammer operator, 2. how does this leave room for me to dress sharply without also twisting reality in my favor?, and 3. people who are visually-attuned enough, naturally, to have a design industry job are also likely to be fashionable, naturally.



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). Like something is missing, or something is up, and I don’t know what it is. 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’. 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. folds (collapsing/isolating sections), 2. saves as plain text (so I can use the same files with Dropbox, IFTTT, and Drafts, 3. opens files from any folder (instead of requiring a single, proprietary folder), 4. hides Markdown syntax (WYSIWYG), 5. clickable URLs, 6. fully-customizable writing interface with CSS (so I can tweak typography), 7. tags that affect the appearance of lines (which I use to visually organize documents), 8. 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! {#solveproblems}

Simple page fade-in effect with CSS + jQuery

CSS font-smoothing Explained

NYTimes: 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.”

Snow Patrol: Wildness Not Great™

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.

The new apartment building, southwest corner.


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

The Take: 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.

UW Design junior Isaac visited CWA for interviews with 4th graders. This is such a special thing, and I’m the only one who can really appreciate it.

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 have a Great™ boss. And 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 + Responsive YouTube embeds + YouTube embeds with tracking disabled

  • 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.

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

Philips Norelco Nose, Ear, Eyebrow Trimmer


jQuery: .parent /.parents, find parent elements + .prev, find previous element + .remove, remove elements from the page + .unwrap, remove parent wrapping elements

  • Using these 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.


Holly (one of my supervisors at CWA) asked today, looking into the future, to start thinking about what my goals are at CWA — so we could start planning around them. How fantastic is that?

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).

FUAY cancelled plans

  • 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.

Survivor: Always Be Moving (Spool Machine) Challenge


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. This is absolutely part of the problem in making this material seem relevant to them.

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.

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

Weval: Weval Great™

I think I’m done with the monoparagraph on this page. Originally, it was a way of handling short posts, which look better collapsed into one. But I’m writing so much more than when I started (which is good).

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 may sound glib, 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.


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. #project

“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

The Take: Mad Men — Betty Draper, The Tragedy of

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

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

The Ringer: 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).

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™


4th grade field trip, day 3.

  • Picked up a new nickname from the kids: “Stringbean” (they were giving each other vegetable nicknames).

Rose, Thorn, Bud reflection technique

  • Our trail leader (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. And during this reflection, I told him 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 CWA field trip, 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).

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.

CineFix: 10 Best Specific Sub-genres of All Time

  • An example of Pleasure-Point Analysis. #pleasurepoint

  • “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/design-industry things are designed for people doing the same tech/design-industry jobs 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”.


4th grade field trip, day 2.

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. #teaching

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. #teaching

  • 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


4th grade field trip to NatureBridge at Olympic National Park, day 1. #classof2026

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


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

Kirby Ferguson: Generating and Evaluating Ideas (Remix Method #2)


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.

For the elderly, the internet can be terrifying

Tully Good™


One drawback to teaching full-time: there’s very little work time during the day (that I’d use to prep lessons and meet with other teachers). And it shows in the fact that my CWA task list never gets shorter.

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

“Why are four of the best teachers in this school in this room right now?” — 5th grader

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

L.M. Sacasas: Community

  • “There are also important questions to consider about how we are formed by our use of social media, given the design and architecture of the respective platforms, and what this does to our capacity to experience community on the platform or find Community beyond it. Chiefly, I'm thinking about how social media tends to turn our gaze inward. The platforms foreground for its users the experience of being a self that is always in the midst of performing for an audience, and at a consequential remove from the immediacy of a face-to-face encounter. Moreover, it seems to me that the experience of community ordinarily presumes a degree of self-forgetfulness. Self-forgetfulness is not something social media tends to encourage.


Cult of Pedagogy: How to Stop Yelling at Your Students

Another surprise 2½-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


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 best way for me to deal with the anxiety and frustration of digital stuff that only kinda works is to stop using those things altogether.

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

Love3 Not Great™

Cult of Pedagogy: A Classroom Management Plan with Michael Linsin

  • “If you have a token economy where you’re paying them for everything that they do, for behavior, for listening… you’re taking the joy out of being part of your class, out of building relationships, out of the joy of succeeding, of not being able to know how to do something or to be struggling with something and then to overcome that. You’re taking that away. You’re bribing them for their behavior. You’re paying them to do something that already has value.”

  • “We don’t convince students to behave. We create an atmosphere they love being part of, and then we hold them accountable, we protect that sacred place, your classroom.”

  • “[When students are misbehaving,] it’s not me, it’s a choice they’re making, and there’s a consequence for that choice.… [The goal is to be] incredibly personable with the students, and you build really close relationships, but when it comes to classroom management, you’re… a referee on a football field.”

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.


NYTimes: 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.

The Take: 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, from Weather Underground


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.

Last week, I had a rough classroom management day with the 5th graders. I handled my frustration coolly (it wasn’t unusual for them, and I still feel mostly powerless in those moments), but a few of them overheard me say to their teacher (Shell) afterwards that I’m still learning. Afterwards, on their own, they decided to write me letters of reflection/apology. Which really means a lot to me.

  • I think a lot of the problem is just that I’m new, and I only see them once a week. It’ll take time to build a relationship with them where they can take me seriously. And, over time, that’ll happen.

  • In the mean time, I’m figuring out how to have fun and keep things rolling. I’m getting more confident and loosening up, being authoritative with a smile on my face. Learning to be a warm demander. It’s a hard balance, but I am learning.

  • One of the major things I’m learning about teaching at CWA is that drawing the line and holding it is, maybe, essential in gaining respect from kids.


Scott Martin: (Burnt Toast): Social Media series — Mousetrap

felt-like-it! Storage Bins

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


Designing highly-structured, loosely-organized learning environments

  • “What if we pretended that the world was our curriculum?”

  • “When you introduce technology into your classroom, you need more structure, not less [to keep learning productive]. But, the access to content is so wide that trying to organize it all into an activity is almost impossible. [The solution is to] create highly-structured learning environments within our classroom that allow students to… organize their own understanding”

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!

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.”

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

  • This documentary has reinforced how important it is, I think, for people to follow the things/activities that they’re naturally drawn to — because there’s so much to be learned about yourself in the things that resonate (the Great™s). This is the reason why I think it’s so important to help kids discover what they’re interested in — it’s a path to self-discovery. #teaching

  • “[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 (vs. graphic design) — 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

Hide pages from search engines with ‘noindex’ metatags.


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 (instructions) + Star Wars remix + Santa & Reindeer 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: Adding images

  • 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 screen distraction + 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 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


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. #email

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.

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™


Talking to UW Design juniors about jobs/internships, and it makes me a little sad. Of course I want them to succeed professionally and build the lives they want — absolutely. But it’s likely that, in professionalizing them, the industry will dilute them in some way. Based on experience, they’ll buy in — start to speak the jargon, wear the uniform, go through the motions of a corporate person who shares the businesses’ goals and an enthusiasm for whatever that business sells. I'm generalizing, but I do think entering the business world is a turning point — a fundamental shift in our priorities, in how much of ourselves we’re allowed to show.

  • Especially the design industry, which runs on shallowness, artifice, bullshit, vanity.

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, it seems.)

  • 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 (and the world!) 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.


CWA high school graduation. This was a little weird (since I don’t know these kids at all). But interesting to be reminded that: 1. CWA students aren’t much younger than UW students (and I could easily find a way to work with high schoolers), and 2. 7 years from now, the oldest students I taught this year (the 5th graders) will be graduating.

I nominated Carie (one of the 4th grade teachers I work with) for an award that she ended up winning, and my write-up was read when she received her award: “I don’t have my own classroom, so I get the chance to see teachers work with their students in their own homerooms. I’ve learned a lot from teaching in Carie’s room, and she's inspired me with her dedication to the craft of what she does. She is never not teaching, and she takes every opportunity to demonstrate and expect thoughtfulness, openness, inquiry, and accountability (from her students and her peers). She doesn’t shy away from complex ideas and handles them with grace. I enjoy working with her class, especially, because they embrace those opportunities.”

Also at graduation, Holly (my boss, Director of Educational Technology) received the Inspirational Faculty award — which she absolutely deserves. However, some of the comments read during her introduction only mentioned super basic computing skills — which highlights a hilarious misunderstanding of the value of what she and I actually teach.

  • I’d like to win that award some day, and god damn if typing, passwords, and Google Apps are my legacy.

I’m still a little miffed I didn’t get the teaching award at our UW graduation and that I wasn’t picked to speak for our group. I deserved that award, and I would’ve kicked ass on that speech.

Tom Gauld, illustrator


Finished a project that’s been in the works (off and on) for seven! years: Yeti in My Freezer.

  • This was a fun project, and I’m happy to help Phil with anything. But this situation is common with graphic design projects: they get stuck in limbo, or just never see the light of day. In my lifetime, there are a lot of hours invested in projects that just evaporated into nothing.

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.

Downsizing movie poster

This Is 40 Not Great™

Gemini Not Great™


Prepping for the 4th grade documentary unit, I collected a few kid-friendly video essays for them to deconstruct: How Jerry Seinfeld Tells a Joke, Miyamoto on Super Mario Bros., A 6-Year-Old Spelling Bee Champion, Hip Hop Remixes Science, and more.

  • I love video essays — and the fact that my job now so seamlessly incorporates the things I do for fun on my own time.

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 {#solveproblems}


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.

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.

It is surprisingly easy for me to deliver a 30–45+ minute slide presentation at UW, with zero notes. And, I think, pretty interesting ones. This would’ve seemed crazy to me in high school Speech class — which I absolutely dreaded, and where even 10 minutes seemed terrifyingly long.

Panasonic Hair and Beard Trimmer


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.


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


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. #theprocess

  • “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, chunky 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

CreativeMornings Omaha: Tim Guthrie

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.

Signed and mailed my CWA letter, which means: 1. I’m a full-time teacher, and 2. this closes the loop on the adventure that started when I left Omaha for grad school. #thenextphase

  • I have arrived, mother fucker!

  • When I started last year (part-time), it wasn’t exactly intended to become a full-time position that includes middle school, too. I’m excited about having convinced them that I (and they) were ready for the next step.


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 graphic design taking a back seat in my life — I still catch up on Typewolf every Friday and really look forward to it.

Production Type, type foundry

The Take: 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™

Bought some Chris McVeigh LEGO sets: My Old Desktop: Mac + My Old Basement: Atari 2600 + My First TV: 80s (2.0).

I think this packaging is really legit.


At a BFI fundraiser, I got to thank one of the BFI teachers (Ramón) for suggesting last year that maybe I could teach technology classes at a private school. Which I hadn’t realized: 1. was even a job, or 2. that I was already qualified for (since private schools don’t require teaching credentials). He suggested a specific Lakeside job, which I didn’t get, but it was a pivot point that eventually lead me to CWA — a job that feels absolutely ideal for me.

NYTimes: 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! #journaling

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 2½ 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 illustrator


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

The 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

{album} Cautious Clay: Blood Type Good™


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: Siri → iOS Reminders → Drafts.

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.

EvoEco logo


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


JKDC: Film Streams Case Study

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

  • #bulletjournal {#BS}

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

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

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

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

The American Good™

The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing Good™

  • “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


Did “Weird Website Day” day with the 5th graders, a collection I assembled of fun/wacky websites.

  • Sampulator, web-based music sequencer

  •, trippy optical illusions

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

  • They loved it. Free-play days like this have been really helpful in figuring out what students are into. I asked them for feedback on why, and they said, “it was open-ended, we could edit/create something of our own, it gave us choice/freedom, we were switching to different things, not step-by-step.”

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


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!


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. #teaching #design

Black Panther Not Great™

The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited at MoPop

  • “Designed by Jim Henson.… The puppet’s simple construction allowed Henson to create the wide range of subtle facial expressions that make Kermit such a believable character.”

  • 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.

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

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

As a kid, I loved Ernie. I really like seeing the word ‘design’ used in places where it’s totally divorced from graphic design and UX.


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) — 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 places 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

Pixel Gustavo (Gustavo Viselner), pixel illustrator

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


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

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

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

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

Lock a Mac screen with a keyboard shortcut

LEGO Food-shaped Food Stands

LEGO Idea Conference, on education and learning through play

  • Attendance is by invitation only. New life goal.


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

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

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

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

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

How MoviePass works

Fresh Air: Mister Rogers

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

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

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


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

Chris Rock: Tamborine Good™

Finally went to Rachel’s Ginger Beer


LEGO Build-Your-Own BrickHead

Tiny House Blog

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

UW Design sophomores (Cedric, Yuansi, and Kenoi), visited CWA for a design research exercise with (Allison, Bea, Katie, Maddie, Rachel) a few CWA 5th graders. I love that these worlds are colliding like this.


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

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

Controversy and Outrage as Marketing Strategy

multitasking… is distraction


Kindle Oasis #treatjoeself

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

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.” — The Ringer

  • 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.

Scott Martin (Burnt Toast): Trial & Error

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™


Bought a 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


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.

  • “Betty or Veronica?” — 5th grader

  • Cheryl

  • About seeing photos of me with hair (which they were really hung up on): “You could’ve been a model.”

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

LEGO 7: Working Dogs


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


Guildes, stop-motion animator

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. #pleasurepoint

  • “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

LEGO 7: Hot Dog Food Truck


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!

The Take: 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

Kauf: Regrowth Great™

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


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

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

Select All, tech news

Vox Earworm, music video essays

The 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

This was so fun.


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.


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 2½ hours (at 6:00 in the morning). Yow.

FaBiOX LEGO Minifig Cases


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

NYTimes: 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™

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