Journal September


Basket and Ball Animated GIF {pixels}


Rewatched Almost Famous Great™ Good™ #40

  • “Most of the time, the best [music] is the popular stuff. It’s much safer to say, ‘Popularity sucks,’ because that allows you to forgive yourself if you suck.”

  • This month is the 10th anniversary of the release of this movie.


It’s possible this is my last year as a classroom teacher. Since school started, I wake up most days imagining what job I could do next and when I could realistically move on. #thenextphase

  • Reasons that are systemic to teaching (so, aren’t going away): 1. every day is different and requires lots of improvisation and creative problem-solving (which is super satisfying and fun), but simultaneously, I feel super stressed most days (even after hours), and I worry it’s affecting my health, 2. the school necessarily requires teachers to do many more things than teaching, but I have more responsibilities than seems reasonable (especially problematic because I have to teach and support technology), and 3. I spend so little time focused on the most satisfying and important part of my job: teaching and lesson planning (which often get squeezed and short-changed by other obligations).

  • Reasons related to the pandemic (which I know are temporary, but I’m not sure I’m willing to wait out): 4. the precautions (wearing a mask, kids wearing masks, Zoom) make teaching harder, less satisfying, awkward, and surreal, 5. it’s difficult to connect with kids because the small moments outside of class (lunch, recess, after school) are gone, and 6. being a Specialist, I was already an island professionally, and now there’s even less collaboration (this feels just like freelancing).

  • And some positive reasons: 7. I’m feeling ready for a new challenge (I love teaching, but I’ve been in a classroom most weeks since 2011), 8. I’ve learned so much about teaching kids from the pros I work with, and I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it myself, 9. working from home works for me, and 10. the current 5th graders are my favorite group of kids at CWA — it’d feel appropriate to leave when they move up to middle school (my last Color & Comp was my favorite UW class, too). #classof2028 #classof2020

  • So what could I do instead? I’ve got ideas: technology workshops (although, I'm losing interest in teaching without the chance to build long-term connections), coding tutoring, back to the design industry (but it’d have to be connected to education [micro:bit, MakeCode, Seesaw]), or a really dope solo project I’ve been thinking about. #jobs


T-shirt idea: “You’re muted.”

CSS Easing Functions Cheat Sheet

Rewatched Moneyball Great™ #40

  • “We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game. We just don’t know when that’s going to be. Some of us are told at 18, some of us are told at 40. But we’re all told.”

  • “People are overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws: age, appearance, personality.”

  • “This is a process. It’s a process. It’s a process.” #theprocess

  • A quality of Great™ movies (for me), and reason this movie is particularly Great™: it has momentum. I can feel the weight of it, and it’s always rolling forward. Every scene does something essential. The people aren’t characters as much as they are parts of a machine. The movie is the main character. @todo


(Alec) 4th grader “Mr. Sparano, you’re the best technology teacher.”

  • I really appreciate anytime this happens. And my reaction (internally) is that: hell yeah, I am! I’m better at this job than anyone at this school has ever been, and I’m better at this job than just about anyone anywhere. #firstteamalldefense

  • It’s essential for my own confidence and mental health for me to embrace the positive feedback I hear, because it’s so rare. The homeroom teachers are more likely to butt into my lessons and try to change something that I’m doing, or offer unsolicited advice afterwards, or just say nothing at all about the awesome lesson I just taught. The kids are much more likely to tell me I’m good at my job, and hearing it means a lot. But they can’t really understand the work of teaching.

  • I’m good at this job because: 1. I’m excited about what I teach and that enthusiasm comes through, but also, 2. I’m skeptical of digital technology and social media, and I want kids to question their assumptions that all technology is good for us, 3. I believe in the life-affirming power of being creative, and my lessons are as creative as I can make them, 4. I’m always iterating, and I never teach the same lesson in the same way twice — I’m always trying to make it better, 5. I want kids to feel that want I’m teaching us relevant to them, and I work really hard to design lessons that are fun and interesting, and 6. I treat kids as people that deserve respect, I’m genuinely interested in kids’ perspective on life, and I try to never condescend to them.

When the apocalypse arrives, I’ll be eating Taco Bell.


Finicky, open URLs in specific browsers + config


Looking at my Images page, it’s crazy how much I’ve been the same person my whole life. Video games, technology/gadgets, LEGO, ironic one-panel cartoons, miniaturization, problem-solving/constraints. And it’s not just my interests that haven’t changed — I’ve always identified deeply with: using my time creatively, spending most of my days in my head, being self-sufficient, being simultaneously both really emotional and really logical.

  • Are all people the same people their whole lives? With kids at school, am I already talking to the people they’ll be when they’re 40. I mean, probably.

  • All of this is the premise of the Up series.

Archive Good™


LaunchBar: Actions Scripting #coding

FinderMinder, set size/position of Finder windows


TileCode, game design tool for making games on a handheld device (the interface is just a D-pad + A/B buttons)

I’m Thinking of Ending Things Good™

  • “Everything is tinged.… Colored by mood, by emotion, by past experience. There is no objective reality.” #realness


Alfred, ⌘ + Space app

LaunchBar: Sync Settings Across Devices

Firefox: Disable Accidental Mousewheel Page Zooming


I’m in the midst of a debate with a co-worker (Katie) about the ways people should express their emotions (particularly their frustrations with the insane situation that is teaching right now). She says that people should be able to feel their feelings. Which, of course — we have no control over our feelings. But to me, it’s inconsiderate (and unprofessional) to express those feelings if they’ll upset/hurt/disorient/frustrate the people around you. #feelings

  • She said something I’ve heard before: equating strength (especially strength as a woman) with the freedom to fully express whatever emotion you’re feeling. But the strength in these moments, to me, is in having enough self-control to negotiate my emotions with the implications of my actions that follow those emotions. The strength is in making a choice that’s not just about me and my feelings — but in considering how whatever I choose to do with my feelings will affect other people.

  • And considering, in turn, how my ability to manage my emotions could affect other people’s perception of me. I still think about Dr. Markin’s advice all the time: “The first one to get upset loses”. No matter your upset-ness, once you express it: you lose credibility, you lose respect, you lose negotiating power, you lose goodwill.

  • I’ve really taken this to heart in middle age (especially professionally). I still break sometimes. But I’ve come a long, long way since getting fired from Toys R Us for being a hothead. And all the other times I lost my cool at the jobs in between.

Another co-worker (Carie) said, “Take some time to reconnect with your Xbox this weekend.” Which is thoughtful, I do need a break. But to be seen as someone who would even own an Xbox — clearly they don’t know me that well.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit

This Column Will Change Your Life: Oliver Burkeman’s Last Column

  • “doing it all is structurally impossible. The only viable solution is to make a shift: from a life spent trying not to neglect anything, to one spent proactively and consciously choosing what to neglect, in favor of what matters most.”

  • As much as the Sparano Scale helps me isolate what really matters to me, it also helps me choose what to neglect.

  • “don’t worry about burning bridges: irreversible decisions tend to be more satisfying, because now there’s only one direction to travel – forward into whatever choice you made.”

  • “isn’t fun to confront whatever emotional experiences you’re avoiding — if it were, you wouldn’t avoid them — so the advice that could really help is likely to make you uncomfortable.”

  • “It’s still useful to make plans. But do that with the awareness that a plan is only ever a present-moment statement of intent, not a lasso thrown around the future to bring it under control. #design

  • “I don’t mind what happens.” ⇠ Jiddu Krishnamurti

  • “More often than not, by doing your thing — as opposed to what you think you ought to be doing — you kindle a fire that helps keep the rest of us warm.”

This column is a fountain of philosophy on everyday life. I love it.

Journal August


I just need to get this out: Fuck you to the people who talk and talk and talk and talk, without considering the needs/feelings/time/interests of the people listening (or at least pretending to). You torture people every day because you believe that what you have to say is more important than anything else. There’s nothing we can do because you’re offended when when we tell you we need to go, or we stop listening because we really have other shit we should be doing right now, or what you’re saying just isn’t interesting or relevant to us. You can’t be helped because you’ve spent your entire life with the understanding that other people exist to listen to you. If anyone tried to help by telling you otherwise, the news would so undermine your understanding of life that it would shock you to an instant death. You really don’t see it — you can’t see it. Because you don’t care enough about other people. And for that: you suck.


macOS: Preventing from Opening Every Time You Click an Email Address

Creed Great™ Good™ #40

  • “You can’t learn anything if you’re talking. It’s a fact of life. As long as you’re talking: you’re not listening.”

  • “One step at a time. One punch at a time. One round at a time. One step at a time.…”


At work, it’s crazy how many things are on my plate right now because the school defines my job as both teaching and behind-the-scenes technology support. It puts me in the ridiculous situation I’m in today — where I haven’t yet started planning my classes for next week (3rd grade Technology and MS Coding Club). Because instead: I’m administering accounts, teaching teachers about Chromebooks, making training videos for families, etc.

  • Both of these jobs are important, but they’re different jobs, and I can’t reasonably handle both. And it’s my teaching that’ll suffer.

  • The idea that these jobs can be combined comes from the line of thinking that technology is technology is technology — it’s all an ambiguous thing that some “tech savvy” person can take care of. Most people don’t — and aren’t genuinely trying — to understand it. Technology is: above them (oh, that’s way too complicated for me!) and below them (oh, I can just get some tradesperson to fix that for me).

  • This obligates people like me (people who’ve put in the work to understand the technology they use) to continually sacrifice our own time and energy to compensate for the struggles of (self-described) “not tech-savvy” people in our lives. That is: people who haven’t yet taken responsibility for their reliance on technology.

  • This is particularly problematic with remote teaching, where every moment with kids is digitally-mediated, and my support responsibilities (contractually just 20% of my job) become 150% of it.

  • This frustration extends to my personal life, too. Over the years, I’ve spent tons of time helping friends and family with computer things.

I’m feeling near-maximum stress. And at a time like this, I’d normally take the afternoon, head to the theater, grab some Peanut M&M’s and a big Coke Zero, and disconnect in the best way I know how. But there are no theaters to go to, and I miss it dearly.

TouchPad, iPhone as a wireless Mac mouse

  • For couch + projector computing.

  • I’m so happy to have invested in this projector before the pandemic, though. It’s not a movie theater, but it’s a hell of a good compromise. #treatjoeself

Random 9×10 Sprite Generator #pixels

How to Roll a Belt

Lemi Shine Appliance Cleaners, things tend to smell and grow in the PNW if I don’t stay on top of it.

SLUMB: Reset Good™

BrickRooms, intricately-detailed minifig-scale home vignettes


Wild Wild Tech: Can a Computer Algorithm End Music Copyright Law as We Know It?


As summer has been winding down, I’ve been dreading the Wall of Stress waiting for me on the other side. I figured that, as soon as I went back to work, my workload and responsibilities would be immediately, unreasonably, unavoidably intense. Today was that day, and that is how it feels. I hate the feeling that I’m locked into unreasonable and unavoidable stress indefinitely — that: 1. there’s no way to handle everything that needs to be done at a normal workday pace (every minute I can give would be helpful), 2. I’ll be sacrificing personal time (nights, weekends, sleep, headspace) to keep up (I’m writing this, lying in bed, at 3:00 in the morning), and 3. the only way through is to keep working until all the work is done.

  • This aspect of teaching is pretty hard. We do get two (unpaid) months off, and I live for that open-ended time in my life. But it’s not like we can just walk in the door in the fall and leisurely get started. It’s more like we’re doing 12 months of work compressed into 10 months, and the stress of teaching is just killer sometimes. #teaching #thenextphase

Well, is dead. I missed something essential (that kids and teachers will need the ability to schedule unique events for each kid, and for those events to show on the kid’s calendar) — which my solution can’t do.

  • What a bummer. It’s my fault that I missed that detail. But I learned a lot about JavaScript, I did have fun making it, and I did set out to accomplish what I intended to.

  • A frustrating thing about this situation is that I built the site on the assumption that I’d found a perfect solution. To discover that I actually hadn’t, I needed to get some feedback. But in a digitally-mediated world, getting spontaneous feedback about a crazy (but maybe really good) idea is hard. In the real world, I would’ve walked downstairs at school and said, “Hey, I have this crazy idea, what do you think?”. But now, my only choices are to: send an email (which, who needs another one of those?), send a text (and invade my coworker’s personal space), or schedule a Zoom (which, scheduling is tedious and takes too long).

  • Digital technology does bridge divides and make connections. But (and this is a pretty big but) they also widen divides and create disconnections. In this case: email, texting, and video chats are (actively) preventing me from getting feedback, just as much as they’re (potentially, theoretically) enabling it. #digitalanxiety


This is it. The last day of summer break. #summerofjoe

  • I feel like I made really good use of this one and met many of the goals I set out for myself two months ago.

JavaScript calendar and time libraries: FullCalendar + Moment.js

I’ve spent all weekend on a fun project, coding a schedule page that will help the kids know where they’re supposed to be for their remote classes (as their Chromebook homepage). It’s super tight!

  • It solves several problems that no other tool I could find could do: 1. when it loads, it only shows today’s schedule, 2. a line indicates where they are in the day (for kids who can’t yet tell time), 3. it’s kid-friendly (so, no unnecessary interactions or functionality, and with big, easy-to-read text), 4. it pulls data from Google Calendar (so it’s relatively each to manage and update), 5. activities are color-coded depending on whether they’re online or offline, and 6. online activities are clickable, and will open the right Zoom class (using the URL in the location field).

  • I bought a domain for it, which should streamline getting to these pages:

  • CSS Grid Generator


Rewatched Groundhog Day Great™ Good™ #40

  • This is a tough one. I think it’s an incredible movie: technically and creatively. But a Great™ movie (for me) really should be infinitely watchable. And as much as I love Groundhog Day, the number of scenes that repeat (by design) are also the thing that keeps me from feeling all that excited about watching it.


Another pattern in my anxiety: if I start working on a new thing before I finish the thing before it, my mind will still be trying to resolve both things. This can apply to tasks/projects of any size — situations where my mind is tempted to actively resolve or not-forget the first thing. I’ll feel much better if I focus on one thing, finish it, and move on to the next. #anxiety

  • This anxiety is why capturing open loops is so important for me. If a new task/project pops into my head while I’m in the midst of something else: I can safely park on new thing and keep my mind focused on the first thing.

  • Similarly, I’ve noticed that I’ll be a lot less cranky about work stress/obligations if I’ve already worked through Tasks.txt (my personal tasks/projects) for the day. My personal things will always feel more important to me than work things, so I need to resolve them first.

  • This doesn’t apply to long-term, creative/fun projects, though (graphic design, playing video games, reading). With these kinds of things, the inverse is true: taking breaks (letting it cook) feels better — making the problem-solving richer, the thoughts deeper, the connections more intricate.

Game Maker’s Toolkit: Games That Design Themselves #design

  • Follow the Fun (design strategy): “taking some initial idea (however loose, fuzzy, or unoriginal it might be) and actually building a working prototype. And it’s here — during the process of coding and playing — that new ideas can spring up. And so it’s up to the designer to be open and attentive to what the game is saying. To realize what’s interesting, and be willing to explore those aspects… even if they don’t totally align with what you originally had in mind.” #iter8ordie

  • “This process… can be used for listening to player feedback. When players [find] all sorts of exploits and unintended ways to play the game,… [lean] into them and [make] them an official part of the game”

  • This is a perfect description of quality teaching: 1. you walk into class thinking: ‘The lesson is going to go like this,’ and 2. the kids are like: ‘Uh, no, actually it’s going to go this other way that you didn’t expect, but that we like better than what you planned,’ so 3. you iterate for next time (following the fun) and everyone wins. #teaching


Batman: The Telltale Series Good™


Kirby Ferguson: Magical Thinking

  • “When people are afraid and uncertain, magical thinking kicks in. We see patterns that don’t exist, we see connections that aren’t there, we see hidden meanings in the meaningless.”

  • “[magical thinking] eases our anxieties.… The goal isn’t the truth — it’s to make us feel better”

  • “If you knock on wood: that’s magical thinking. If you believe in luck, or karma, or destiny, or the Law of Attraction: that’s magical thinking. If you believe in astrology, or you have a thing for crystals, or you think you’re going to be reincarnated: those are magical thinking. And at the core of all religions is magical thinking.”

  • “Magical thinkers see society as the outcome of someone’s plan. This is a core element of conspiracy theories, and maybe this is why so many very religious people also believe in conspiracy theories.”

  • Religions are conspiracy theories.

  • “Magical thinking or ideology… are not systems of knowledge, and they cannot build solutions — they can only criticize and second-guess. Magical-thinkers will rarely be right, and it’ll mostly be luck when they are. With technical or complex matters, evidence-seekers are going to outperform magical thinkers by a lot because they have at least some comprehension of what is actually happening.”

  • “[To combat magical thinking,] we need to improve social conditions so that people are less frightened and feel more sense of control and they have purpose and meaning.”

I don’t think people are inherently good or evil: I think people are inherently self-centered. And their decisions are then good/evil/whatever depending on what’s best for them in any particular situation. Their goal isn’t good-ness or evil-ness, it’s self-preservation.

  • It’s important to recognize that most people don’t actually, truly give a shit about anyone else (despite appearances to the contrary). They’re rarely willing to compromise, sacrifice, ask questions, listen, consider alternative perspectives, give the benefit of the doubt, choose the many over the one, or try any harder than they have to.

  • Some people are willing to do those things, though. Very few, but they’re out there! These are the Great™ people. And I’m trying to do a better job of acknowledging those people in my life.

  • Why am I thinking about this? I’m always thinking about this.

  • This line of thinking been helpful this year in disconnecting the thoughts and actions of other people from affecting how I feel about myself. And even if this perspective is cynical and pessimistic, it also feels realistic and helpful. I’m gaining a genuine independence of thought and emotion, and I’ve come a long way in 2020 in taking that disconnection to heart. And that feels good! #goodeitherway

VENN, gaming TV newtork


avilabrick, minifig-scale buildings LEGO builder

Pebble: ProgBars, progress bars watchface

  • I love how — despite my die-hard devotion to Pebble — there are still new watch faces out there that I’ve never seen, just waiting to be discovered. Awesome.


When I’m hanging out with people whose conversations trend towards events and story-telling, I don’t have much to say — I’m more or less worthless. I’m much more at home around people who like talking about ideas and feelings. This has been a problem for me for years, and I’m just now realizing why.

Horo, natural language menu bar timer + stopwatch


In the last week, I’ve made sushi rolls, granola, and pancakes at home, from scratch — all surprisingly, ridiculously easy.

Retrospecs, image processing app that mimics 70s/80s/90s technology constraints and color palettes

The Thrill of the Play-in Race Provides a Blueprint for the NBA’s Future

  • “[small], unobtrusive changes can have considerable benefits.… All it took was a bit of invention.”

  • This school year, we’re switching Specialist teachers to an ‘intensive’ format (where we see the same group of kids every day, on two-week cycles; instead of once a week, year-round). It’s an idea I pitched in the spring to resolve a few problems with remote teaching: 1. kids told me they didn’t have enough time or headspace for all of their Specialist projects in a week, so 2. our classes were essentially made irrelevant, and my teaching/lesson-planning energy felt wasted. It blew.

  • I’m stoked about the new format, and I’ll bet it’s going to stick even when we’re back on campus. It solves the remote problems, but it also: 1. allows for deeper projects that can gain genuine momentum (because kids are thinking about the same project every day, instead of once a week), and 2. reduces planning fatigue for me (for the same reason).

  • It’s a door that opened only because of the pandemic, and that’s something to be excited about.

Game Boy Medieval Adventure Game Mock-up #pixels

Rewatched Ocean’s Eleven Great™ Good™ #40


Taco Bell: Grilled Cheese Burrito Good™

Mack Weldon, men’s basics clothing

  • Bought a few Ace Crew Neck Sweatshirts.

  • I have a vision of replacing all of my casual long-sleeve shirts and sweaters with sweatshirts in different colors. And then most days, I’d wear either a sweatshirt (in fall/winter/spring) or t-shirt (in the summer). And then for fancier times, a button-up.

  • I also replaced all of my socks with Balega Silver No Show Running Socks that I’m intending to wear all year (thanks to the delightfully mild weather in the PNW).

Dropbox Vault, PIN-protected folder for sensitive files


NBA Streams

  • I’ve been watching a lot of basketball (because of the Bubble, games are on every day, back-to-back for most of the day), and it’s been awesome.

  • Few things are as reassuring to me as just having basketball on my TV. I’m not watching every moment, but life is good when it’s just on in the background. (And especially when there’s commentary by 90s stars like Shaq, Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, Sean Elliott.)

  • I’m a Spurs fan and I have been as long as I’ve been an NBA fan. But if I also followed a ‘local’ team, who would it be? 1. the Blazers are the closest (a 2-hour drive south), 2. the Grizzlies were originally in Vancouver (also nearby, and my favorite city on Earth), while 3. the Thunder are the original Seattle SuperSonics.

Wild Wild Tech, pop culture + technology podcast

Pixel Art Perspective Demos: ¾ Side-View + Top-Down + Isometric #pixels

  • ¾ Side-View: “you are 45° from the the center of the house, looking directly at a side corner.… you see about ¾ of each wall.”

  • ¾ Top-Down: “you are viewing the house from 45° above.… you see about ¾ of both the roof and facade.”

  • Isometric: “similar to ¾ top-down, but it also rotates the building 45°.… revealing [the top and two sides equally].”


Her Story Not Great™

What Teaching Online Taught Me

  • “My experiences teaching online during the pandemic have done nothing to shake my critiques of [digital technology tools]; if anything… the shortcomings of these platforms and the feelings of alienation and discontent they produce have only hardened my views on the matter.”

Evaporation Hoops Stop-Motion Animation


Rewatched The Truman Show Great™ Good™ #40

  • “We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented.”

  • “I get asked a lot: ‘What do you think happens to Truman [from The Truman Show] when he leaves the stage and goes through the door?’ And I say: he has to watch everybody go back in to the stage and try to seek what he had — that fame, that focus. So he’s alone again.” Jim Carrey #socialmedia

  • The Take: The Truman Show Tried to Warn Us

  • “The name ‘Truman’ sounds like ‘true man’ — reflecting that what makes Truman both refreshing entertainment and a compelling human being is that he’s not trying to curate an image — he’s just being himself.”

  • “Unlike Truman who doesn’t know he’s being filmed, the other ‘characters’ who knowingly take part in the show have sacrificed their personal lives and their integrity to their fictional roles.… And the fact is that many… people today are more like [Truman’s wife and best friend]… than we are like Truman — because the majority have chosen to engage with sharing culture to some degree, and perform our lives for a public.”

  • “The reason that Truman falls for Sylvia… is that… he recognizes an honesty in her that’s missing in the rest of his life. So his attraction suggests that, even if we’re oblivious to the facts, we have a subconscious understanding of what’s real. Following this instinct to chase after truth guides Truman in his journey toward breaking free” #realness

Polyducks, pixel and ASCII illustrator #pixels


Oliver Wendell Holmes “Every now and then a [person’s] mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.”

  • This is one of the most exciting things about life, I think. That there are new thoughts, ideas, and connections out there, just waiting to be made.

  • It’s the reason I spend so much of my time reading, watching, listening-to stuff (consuming media). It’s really where a lot of my new ideas are born, and every day brings something new to think about that I didn’t know the day before.

Rewatched Up in the Air Great™ #40


Rewatched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Great™ Good™ #40

  • “What a loss to spend that much time with someone, only to find out that she’s a stranger.”

Rewatched Inside Man Great™ Good™ #40


One of the projects I’m most excited about having done this summer is clearing my Instapaper queue. Since then, I’ve put two practices into place that I’m hoping will keep that kind of backlog/burden from spawning ever again: 1. for saved articles and links, I have to address them in order, and for each, my only choices are to read it or delete it — there’s no saving for later again, and 2. for podcasts, I’ve changed the settings (in Pocket Casts) to show only the latest episode per show — when a new episode appears, the second-oldest episode disappears.

  • Not long ago, a friend (Nick) suggested (when I said that I’d been saving more things for later than could realistically ever read/watch/listen-to/play): “I guess you don’t really want to do all of those things”. Which is true! Because otherwise, I’d have done them or I’d be actively working on them.

  • If I miss an article/movie/podcast/game that maybe-might’ve-been worthwhile, that’s OK with me now. Truly. One of the best things about getting older is recognizing that completionism (like all variations of perfectionism) is self-defeating and causes way more anxieties than it seems to alleviate. #anxiety

Taco Bell Is Revamping Its Menu

  • This was it. Last Friday Night Taco Joe Time with most of my favorite Taco Bell items: RIP Spicy Potato Soft Taco. RIP 7-Layer Burrito. RIP Nachos Supreme. RIP Cheesy Potato Griller. RIP Beefy Fritos Burrito®. RIP Mexican Pizza.

The Pudding: Identifying Generational Gaps in Music + Defining the 90s Music Canon

  • “The trend here is that music has a natural half-life. Find someone 10 to 15 years your junior, and the likelihood that they’ll know your childhood music references is lower than you think.”

  • “If you take any present-day hit that’s culturally pervasive, such as “Old Town Road” or “Despacito,” we’d expect that someone born today, in 2020, will probably not recognize it twenty years from now.”


Inside Amy Schumer4 Good™

Adventure Gamers, adventure game blog

  • What Are Adventure Games?

  • adventure game: “[a game that’s] all about unraveling stories, exploring worlds, and solving puzzles.… [It] focuses on puzzle solving within a narrative framework, generally with few or no action elements.”

  • In reconnecting with video games over the last year (since buying my Switch), this is absolutely the genre I’ve found myself in the mood for. It prioritizes story, visuals, and puzzle-solving — without anxiety-inducing action or time-limits.

Rewatched Looper Great™ Good™ #40


Flat Tile Characters: Toy Story + Batman + TMNT + Star Wars

Disturbia Good™

Gaming Historian: Mario Paint

  • “nintemper tantrum”: a kid freaking out over losing a video game.

  • Oh man, was this a problem for me as a kid! I used to get really upset with myself for losing — and I’d yell, cry, and throw controllers. The anxiety that some styles of games cause me (that I’ve developed a self-awareness of as an adult) has always been there.

Scrub Daddy Sponges, as seen on Shark Tank!


How to Talk to Conspiracy Theorists and Still Be Kind


Flippity, interactive classroom tools/games from spreadsheets

Rewatched The Royal Tenenbaums Great™ Not Great™ #40

  • I think I originally rated this movie so highly because of the typography and the colors (which I still think are innovative and awesome) — but that muddled my ability to evaluate the movie overall. Now, the impression I’m left with is that the movie is way more twee than I have patience for.

Inside Amy Schumer3 Good™


Crash Course Film History: Home Video

Tangle Tower Good™


This Column Will Change Your Life: Capturing Open Loops Great™

  • open loop: “any kind of commitment or task that’s hanging around in your life, but that you haven’t yet properly dealt with.… your brain is no good at storing open loops, and relying on it to do so fuels background anxiety”

  • “[The solution is to] store them somewhere else… — then your brain can stop struggling to retain them, and you’ll find yourself more focused and relaxed, even without having completed a single one.”

  • Another pattern in my anxiety: I’m easily distracted by trying to remember something that’s popped into my head (solutions to problems I’m working on, connections between things I’ve read/watched/listened-to, insights, new understandings, resolutions to worries — my subconscious is always processing things like this). If I don’t capture these thoughts, I will probably forget them (which is doubly-anxiety-inducing: knowing I’ve forgotten something I really wanted to remember). I’ve written about this before. #anxiety

  • Tasks.txt is my “trusted system” for capturing these open loops and managing the anxiety of thinking (which I otherwise love to do). And a bonus is that capturing one thought means there’s room for more thoughts. Literally, that’s how it feels, and it’s extremely effective.

Dazed and Confused Good™

  • “I’d like to quit thinking of the present (like, right now) as some minor insignificant preamble to something else.”

  • Rewatched Everybody Wants Some!! Good™

Twisting the branches July


How Fascism Works

  • Fascist strategies: 1. conjure up a faith in a mythic past, 2. sow division, and 3. attack the truth.”

  • “[The Italian word] fascio means ‘a bundle of sticks’… [suggesting] strength through unity: a single rod is easily broken, while the bundle is difficult to break.” Wikipedia


Understanding Comics Good™

  • “When we abstract an image through cartooning, we are not so much eliminating details as we are focusing on specific details. By stripping down an image to its essential meaning, an artist can amplify that meaning in a way that realistic art can’t.”

  • “Traditional thinking has long-held that truly great works of art and literature are only possible when [words and pictures] are kept at arms length.”

  • “the term [medium] comes from the Latin word meaning ‘middle’”

  • “Each medium… serves as a bridge between minds. Media convert thoughts into forms that can transverse the physical world and be re-converted by one or more senses back into thoughts.” #medialiteracy

Wait But Why: 100 Blocks a Day

macOS: Set Display Resolution and Toggle Mirroring with AppleScript (via Display Menu)


Firefox: Cookie AutoDelete, self-destructing cookies


PICO-8: Tiny Golf Puzzles

“BA-BA DA-DA-DA BAAA!”: An Oral History of ‘Roundball Rock‘ (The NBA on NBC Theme)

  • “I’m a big believer that when I place a thought in my mind, whether I write it down in a journal or whatever, while I’m sleeping my subconscious mind works on it. And sure enough, that’s what happened.”

  • “I knew if I went back to sleep, it would be gone.… I didn’t have a tape recorder with me. And no cellphone. I had nothing — nothing! The only way to record the idea was to call my Radio Shack answering machine back in Los Angeles. It took me two messages to get the whole thing out.”

  • John Tesh’s Original Answering Machine Demo

  • “Like any classic song, it never goes away and never gets old. I can go back to it, and it still brings back a memory and a feeling. It’s timeless.”

  • This song so takes me back to weekends growing up, watching NBA on NBC.


Rewatched The Squid and the Whale Great™ Good™ #40


Firefox: Hide YouTube Metrics, does for YouTube what Twitter Demetricator does for Twitter. #socialmedia

Low-Res Wind Waker Sailing #pixels

Just Do The Next Right Thing Great™

  • “I don’t need to have the day figured out, the week, or how exactly I will overcome the obstacles in my path. As long as I can identify the next right thing to do, and do that, then everything is going to be okay.” #anxiety

  • “It betrays a universal truth, often unrecognized: that each moment is a new moment, and we get to make a fresh choice about how we will face the challenges of our lives.… We aren’t obliged to be who we were before, doing what we did.” #design

  • “Each choice helps form the foundation upon which we stand. Each choice adds up to who we are.”

  • This connects back to Existentialism — that we are our actions (the things we choose to do).

Waking Life Good™

  • “It might be true that there are six billion people in the world and counting. Nevertheless, what you do makes a difference. It makes a difference… to other people and it sets an example.… we should never simply write ourselves off and see ourselves as the victim of various forces. It’s always our decision who we are.”

  • “On the way to discovering what we love, we will find everything we hate, everything that blocks our path of what we desire.”

  • “It’s up to me. I’m the dreamer.”

  • Waking Life Transcript


Setup job alerts for LEGO Education, micro:bit Educational Foundation, and Microsoft MakeCode.

Rewatched Adventureland Great™ Good™ #40

  • Lisa P., forever.


Firefox: In My Pocket, extended features for Pocket

Game Maker’s Toolkit: Games Designed Around ‘Out of Control’ (GMTK Game Jam 2020) + the games


Rewatched The Prestige Great™ Good™ #40

  • The Take: The Prestige – Nolan on Identity (Existentialism)

  • “Each of us has a set of beliefs about who we are deep down — that we are fundamentally good people, for example, even if others don’t always recognize it. But Nolan’s films would suggest that we are good people only insofar as we do good things.”

  • “Nolan’s philosophy offers a challenge to put our beliefs about ourselves into action. This might sound a little daunting at first, but is it not actually liberating?… we’re free to create our own meaning in life. So rather than being bound to some preordained script of who we must be, we get to choose — and changing our behavior allows us to change who we truly are.” #design

  • “If our function defines us, then there is no illusion — no trick that, when exposed, would reveal who we really are.”

  • “It doesn’t matter who we are. What matters is our plan.” Bane

  • “‘The doer’ is merely a fictitious addition to the doing; the doing is all.” ⇠ Friedrich Nietzsche


Radio Diaries: Quarantined in the Pizzeria

Inside Amy Schumer2 Good™


Low-Res Postapocalyptic Family at Sea #pixels


100 8×8 Low-Res Food & Drink Sprites #pixels

Rewatched Birdman Great™ Good™ #40


AoM: The Great Work of Your Life, on the Bhagavad Gita

  • “You have a responsibility to your gifts and your own idiosyncratic opportunities”

  • “The smallest actions, as long as they’re aligned with your dharma [your calling] make some kind of huge ripple in the world.”

  • “Let go of the fruits…. it’s not grasping [at the outcome] that eventuates in mastery, it’s aspiration [delibrate practice] itself.” #theprocess

  • “to care and not to care” T.S. Eliot

  • “The reason why you’re anxious is you forgot who you are.”


Vox: The Case for Unschooling

  • Outschool, live online classes for kids (and a platform for teaching remotely)

  • Interesting…. The more I think about it, the more teaching from home doesn’t seem so bad: 1. there are perks of working from home, 2. I’ve been been wondering about freelance teaching anyway, 3. teaching remotely is less awkward than the alternative of being in a school papered-over with Coronavirus precautions, and 4. the future of private schools is a big question mark (given the trajectory of the economy), so I should be planning for the possibility that I could lose my job in the next year anyway. #thenextphase

  • Vox News, fewer headlines, more depth and explanation

36: The Infinity Room

WTF: Jim Carrey

Why Video Chats Are So Tiring

Virtual (LED) Sets vs. Green Screen


Bitsy: Under a Star Called Sun, interactive story about space and fading memories #pixels

Pet the Dog 1-Bit Animation #pixels

LoSpec Palette List, pixel art color palettes

Tom Scott: A Million Dollars vs. A Billion Dollars, A Road Trip

16colors, retro computer graphics gallery

Ailadi, ASCII illustrator

Palm Phone, small smartphone


Real Life Magazine: Look Who’s Talking, on tech/UX copywriting

  • “UX design is the process of ensuring that websites, apps, and other products meet the needs of their intended users, at least to the extent that those needs can help generate revenue.”

  • This is it. My fundamental problem with the design industry is that it imagines itself to be a service-oriented enterprise (it’s about ‘helping people‘)… when, really, it’s about marketing and selling to those people. The service it’s providing is secondary to the business it’s running. With graphic design, that’s pretty obvious, but it’s less obvious with UX design.

  • “Clever copy wraps tech’s real motives — gaining access to more information, making us more dependent on their services — in a cloak of cuteness that gently conditions us to go along with whatever’s been plunked down in front of us”

  • “For UX writing teams, ‘clarity’ often means making what the company wants you to do… the clear choice for you.”

The Guardian: Beyond Pluto – The Hunt for Our Solar System's New Ninth Planet


Added a special section to Notes on Design specifically about juice that synthesizes the things I’ve written about it before. It’s been on my mind (since watching LEGO Masters last month), and I realized that the concept of juice (even if it’s called something different) is a fundamental design idea. It captures the feeling of having designed something well, which is difficult to articulate, but oh so important.

  • I like this dynamic of this site: working out ideas through journaling, and then using the more public pages (Notes on design, Teaching, Great™s, and eventually Notes on technology) to hold my current understanding of those ideas. The journal records how those ideas have evolved, and there’s a place that clearly captures where I’m at today. #journaling

  • Is there a relationship between juice and Great™ness? I’m not sure. Since the criteria for what makes something Great™ is (and should be) different for everyone: probably not. For me, though, juice could be exactly the thing that separates Good™ and Great™ (I do adore a well-executed concept).

US Coronavirus Rt (Reproduction Rate) Charts

Preserving Real-life Childhood by Raising Kids Who Know Life Offline

  • “Writing things to or about people when they are not in front of you and you can’t see their reactions makes one more prone to nastiness. Not being able to hear another’s tone of voice makes misunderstandings more common, and the escalation from confusion to anger is quick and often irreversible. Being able to publish or send things immediately — without waiting to find an envelope, a stamp, and then a mailbox the next morning — makes it easier to write things you will later regret.”

  • “Those of us who are over the age of, say, thirty-five can recall a time when we played outside for hours (till the streetlights came on) without thinking for a moment whether someone was trying to contact us.”

  • “Though those days may seem far in the past, the fact that we can still conjure up these memories and feelings puts us at a distinct advantage today: we know an alternative to digital life.… Many of our children [do] not.”

Rewatched Chicago Great™ Good™ #40


Here’s an interesting thought: that this website is a remix of my interests. As a project, a personal website sits at the nexus of things I enjoy doing: graphic design, typography, coding, writing, having a constant creative challenge. I started this site just because it sounded fun, period — and only subconsciously was it because it connected these interests together.

I’ve been feeling uncharacteristically pessimistic and cynical about people, and the trend continues. I’m not angry or spiteful. These feelings aren’t about specific relationshops or moments in time. They’re an accumulation of relationships and moments that is slowly adjusting my perspective and willingness to make time for the relationships I have — and especially, my interest in building new ones. The state of the world is not helping, but this feeling has been evolving for a few years (really, since moving to Seattle). #relationships

  • I recognize this is happening, and I don’t mind. I’ve been more selfish with my time and energy in lockdown, and I love it. I feel great on my own: I have more time, I feel more satisfied and productive creatively, and I feel less anxious. #goodeitherway

Low-Res Tiny RPG Characters #pixels

History of a City Square #pixels

Satoshi Aizawa, minimalist, animated line drawings


I’m skeptical of people who like to tell stories. Did this really happen in this way? How is it that your life has so many stories worth telling? In the moments these things happened, are you thinking about telling this story later?

Movie & Game Microscale Architecture Skylines

Ingramer, Instagram photo/video downloader

mmhmm, newscast-style (talking head) presentations

The Forgotten History of how Automakers Invented the Crime of Jaywalking

Rewatched That Thing You Do! Great™ #40

  • This movie is straight-up fun: it’s hilarious and fast-paced (a quality of movie-making that I’m really drawn to).

  • And the music is perfect. It’s incredible that — given the creative challenge of writing songs from a fictitious album that could’ve believably been hits in the 1960s — anyone could actually pull it off. Amazing.

  • Liv Tyler, forever.


Nicolas Carlier, LEGO builder

Atticus Ross “It doesn’t really matter to me [if other people like what I’ve made] because I know that I’ve done my best.” #goodeitherway

PICO-8: Running Off the Rails, train track puzzle game

Brandon James Greer: Remaking My First Pixel Art 5 Years Later (The Hulk) #pixels

  • “The way I approach [a project] is just to get something that feels approximately correct. The whole purpose here is just that it’s the first pass…. It’s just about getting something on the board that we can look at and assess and then fine-tune it later if there’s mistakes.” #theprocess

Inside Amy Schumer1 Good™


Love & Mercy Good™

The Midnight: Monsters Not Great™


Palm Springs Good™

  • I love movies.


You’ve Gotta Connect Good™ #summerofjoe

  • “You connect with students by accepting them.”

  • “You can forge bonds with students who are initially reluctant to be engaged. On the flipside, you can fall out of favor with those with whom you felt an incredible connection. There is great potential in this simple awareness. Embrace the fluid nature of your relationships with students. You step into a new stream dozens of times each day with your students. Never assume that the stream will be the same as it was yesterday.”

  • “When you long for this class to have the passion… that last year‘s [class] had, these kids will feel your lack of acceptance.… This nostalgia… keeps you from seeing these students — their needs and gifts.”

  • My favorite classes have been easy to connect with — the students wanted to learn and wanted to do well, and that was an natural wave to ride towards connecting. In retrospect, I know exactly the times when I could’ve worked harder to build relationships when they didn’t happen so naturally. I tend to hold students’ lack of enthusiasm for the material against them, which (in turn) prevented me from connecting with them. That’s on me.

  • “There’s a small cadre of kids that seem withdrawn. Some even seem hostile. OK, you signed on to be a teacher. Roll up your sleeves put your ego on hold, and accept the challenge of melting these arctic exteriors.”

  • “Anyone can coach the willing. [The hard part is connecting with everyone (the unwilling, too).]”

  • “A teacher who accepts me will try to find out what I like about myself.”

  • “Embrace bonding with your students as a process — perhaps long and at times painful or awkward.… Be cool! You have time, perhaps, all year. The goal is to have a strong relationship as soon as possible, but accept that it may not happen until late in the game.”

  • “not every student is going to be crazy about you. Get used to it. Get over it. Your behaviors and attitudes toward a student and your efforts to connect should not be dependent on how much the student likes you.”

  • “your job can become a refuge in troubling times. The joys of teaching, the fulfillment of helping students, and the satisfaction of those positive relationships you have built — all of those can be uplifting when your world becomes a nightmare.”


Online Private Messaging Isn’t That Great Either #socialmedia

  • “If the worry in an open network [Twitter/Instagram] is of being judged by some outside observer…, in a closed group [WhatsApp] it is of saying something that goes against the codes that anchor the group’s identity.… This means that while groups can generate high levels of solidarity,… it also becomes harder to express disagreement within the group.”

  • “Most of the time, people seem to share false theories… not with the intention of doing harm, but precisely out of concern for other group members.… rumours combine an identification of an enemy with a strong internal sense of solidarity.”

  • “a vicious circle can ensue: the public world seems ever more distant, impersonal and fake, and the private group becomes a space of sympathy and authenticity.”


Bought a Kobo Libra eReader. Great™ #treatjoeself

  • Which is replacing my Kindle. I’ve been working my way out of Google and Amazon, and switching ebook gadgets feels like an important step (because Amazon has, I think, a more significant role in our lives than any company should), despite Kindle having been one of my most treasured things for all these years.

  • I’ve owned a few Kindles: the original (2008), Keyboard (2010), two Paperwhites (2012/3), and an Oasis (2018).

  • The Libra has features I was hoping Kindle would eventually add, but never did: 1. seamlessly integrating saved web articles, 2. a reading progress bar (seeing progress when I’m reading is big motivator for me, which disappears on an eReader without actual pages), and 3. showing the current book cover as the screen saver (hell yeah — finally!).

Pocket, read web articles later Great™

  • This is the platform used to sync articles to Kobo and it’s super slick (replacing my Instapaper-to-Kindle methods, which weren’t reliable). Pocket is also owned by Mozilla, and so, conveniently integrated into Firefox (my favorite browser). Yee haa!

Kepubify, epub-to-kepub (Kobo ebook with advanced features) converter

US Maps as Tile Grids


Muppet Guys Talking

  • “He [Jim Henson] encouraged people to contribute, and he valued their contributions.”

  • People who worked with Fred Rogers said the same thing.

3-Color, Animated Cartoony Characters #pixels


Here’s one of the more frustrating modern problems caused by technology: as companies grow (i.e. ‘scale’), they have to design systems that act on behalf of the powerful people — people who can make decisions and solve problems — because there are too many customers to help directly. But, those systems aren’t flexible enough (they aren’t human enough) do that well. The limitations of digital technology (its binary-ness — the 1s & 0s) dictate that problems and solutions have to be put into categories and decision trees. Any problem or solution that hasn’t been accounted for in the design of the system can’t be resolved. #digitalanxiety #design

  • Or, at least, can’t be resolved without persevering through many, many “I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t do that” dead ends. Until, hopefully, finally, finding someone who has the power to work outside the constraints of that system.

  • Here’s an example: I bought a modem so I don’t have to rent one monthly from Xfinity. 1. First dead end:I bought it used on eBay, from a seller that’d picked it up (returned) at Best Buy, and it was (coincidently) last used by another Xfinity customer. All of that should be fine. According to the decision tree, because the modem was still technically connected to the original account, I can’t activate it on my account. 2. Second dead end: the original Xfinity modem was pre-installed in my apartment, with a sticker that indicates “Only a Xfinity technician should remove this device.… It should remain here for use by future residents, even after disconnecting or transferring.” According to the decision tree, the only way to stop renting the Xfinity modem is to send it to Xfinity — which the modem itself clearly says not to do.

  • It took some work, but I think (after multiple support calls/chats) I was able to find people with enough power to help. But it was a lot of work, and the burden was squarely on my shoulders to twist the branches of those decision trees.

  • When I first setup my internet service, I had a similar Xfinity issue that also fits this category of modern problem.

  • I don’t hold the support people responsible in the least. I’m sure it’s incredibly frustrating to live inside that system.

  • Scale is weird: 1. it creates distance between us and the real part of the thing, and in doing so, 2. leaves us with a feeling of powerlessness, and 3. it commodifies the thing to the point of feeling artificial. #realness

  • FUAY scale.

PICO-8: Sequence8, music sequencer

Sorry to Bother You Not Great™


Decided to nix all of the journal images/videos on this site. I’m finding that taking, choosing, and preparing photos is disproportionately stressful and time-consuming. Plus, ultimately, the value of this journal (for me) is in the writing — in the process of transforming thoughts and feelings into words.

  • However, I still want to share digital things I’ve made recently (pixel art, drawings, graphic design — which are also relatively easy to post). So, I added an Images page, where they’re also more accessible to more people than the journal images were anyway. Win-win.


Ars Technica: War Stories, working with constraints in the making of classic video games #theprocess


  • I didn’t know that NBA Jam was based on a game released four years earlier (also by Midway) called Arch Rivals.

  • Prince of Persia

  • “Sometimes you discover things along the way that make you realize that the initial vision is just a first draft.”

Everything is a Remix: Reality

  • “just like our creations are remixed from the world around us, our beliefs are remixed from what we watch, read, and listen to.… You’ve absorbed new ideas, and they’ve altered who you are.”

  • This video essay is a conceptual tie between Kirby’s two major projects: Everything is a Remix and This Is Not A Conspiracy Theory.

  • Carl Sagan “You can always find something resembling the pattern you’re looking for.”

  • “You turn [the patterns you find in the media you consume] into little stories to help you understand and remember.… You generalize and exaggerate, you strip away nuance and contradictions, and you add conflict and drama. This process… produces an ideology.”

  • “Critical thinking is [also] about doubting yourself.”


Rewatched Midnight in Paris Great™ Good™ #40

  • I identify with the central theme of this movie: that it’s easy to romanticize some past era as an untarnished version of the present. I do long for a time before the internet and globalization twisted reality into a knot. But (having actually grown up in an era without the internet), I know first-hand that it’s not possible to appreciate the present as something better than what’s to come later — that perspective requires that past era to have ended.

  • And anyway, in the future, people will be romanticizing today as a better version of their past.

Rewatched The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters Great™ Good™ #40

  • This movie has really stuck with me since I first watched it years ago. The most valuable questions it introduces are: How do shitheads manage to achieve so much? How do narcissism, selfishness, sliminess, underhandedness, and dishonesty reward people with professional and personal success?

  • I think it works like this: 1. no shithead wins in isolation — they need enablers, and 2. a shithead’s enablers are getting something out of it, too.

  • The Case Against Billy Mitchell’s Donkey Kong Scores


Trick Mirror Good™

  • “When I feel confused about something, I write about it until I turn into the person who shows up on paper: a person who is plausibly trustworthy, intuitive, and clear. It’s exactly this habit — or compulsion — that makes me suspect that I am fooling myself. If I were, in fact, the calm person who shows up on paper, why would I always need to hammer out a narrative that gets me there?” #journaling

  • “As a medium, the internet is defined by a built-in performance incentive. In real life, you can walk around living life and be visible to other people. But you can’t just walk around and be visible on the internet — for anyone to see you, you have to act. You have to communicate in order to maintain an internet presence. And, because the internet’s central platforms are built around personal profiles, it can seem… like the main purpose of this communication is to make yourself look good.” #socialmedia

  • “commerce has been slowly permeating human existence — entering our city streets in the nineteenth century through billboards and posters, then our homes in the twentieth century through radio and TV. Now, in the twenty-first century, in what appears to be something of a final stage, commerce has filtered into our identities and relationships.”

  • “[On the internet,] you can essentially be on a job interview in perpetuity.”

  • “What’s amazing is that… ad hoc experiments in digital architecture have shaped so much of our political discourse. Our world would be different if Anonymous hadn’t been the default username on 4chan, or if every social media platform didn’t center on the personal profile, or if YouTube algorithms didn’t show viewers increasingly extreme content to retain their attention, or if hashtags and retweets simply didn’t exist. It’s because of the hashtag, the retweet, and the profile that solidarity on the internet gets inextricably tangled up with visibility, identity, and self-promotion.” #design

  • “Fyre Fest sailed down Scam Mountain with all the accumulating force and velocity of a cultural shift that had, over the previous decade, subtly but permanently changed the character of the nation, making scamming — the abuse of trust for profit — seem simply like the way things were going to be. It came after the election of Donald Trump, an incontrovertible, humiliating vindication of scamming as the quintessential American ethos. It came after a big smiling wave of feminist initiatives and female entrepreneurs had convincingly framed wealth acquisition as progressive politics. It came after the rise of companies like Uber and Amazon, which broke apart the economy and then sold it a cheap ride to the duct tape store, all while promising to make the world a better and more convenient place. It came after the advent of reality TV and Facebook, which drew on the renewable natural resource of our narcissism to create a world where our selves, our relationships, and our personalities were not just monetizable but actively in need of monetization. It came after college tuition skyrocketed only to send graduates into low-wage contract work and world-historical economic inequality. It came, finally, after the 2008 financial crisis, the event that arguably kick-started the millennial-era understanding that the quickest way to win is to scam.” #marketing

  • “The con is in the DNA of this country, which was founded on the idea that it is good, important, and even noble to see an opportunity to profit and take whatever you can.”

  • “Uber and Airbnb’s… biggest breakthroughs have been… shifting the need to compete from the company itself to the unprotected individual, and normalizing a paradigm in which workers and consumers bear the company’s rightful responsibility and risk.”

Analog, paper productivity system

Summer of Joe June


Minifig-scale Beaver

Galaga Micro Arcade, credit-card-sized Galaga


Firefox: Format Link, copy Title/URL in custom formats (e.g. Markdown)

Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet

  • “Like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, [Wikipedia] broadcasts user-generated content. Unlike them, it makes its product de-personified, collaborative, and for the general good.”

  • “Most dedicated editors… are that category of person who sits somewhere between expert and amateur: the enthusiast.… Previously, their folk knowledge was reposited in online forums, radio shows, and specialist magazines. Wikipedia harnessed it for the first time.”

  • I love Wikipedia. One of my favorite things about it is that it’s possible to read a no-bullshit, no-storytelling summary of anything — which is difficult to find anywhere else.

The Creative Risks of ‘Team’-work

  • “the best way to master a field is to work on the task that’s most demanding for you personally. And often the best way to do this is alone. Only then can you ‘go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve, you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class — you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.’”

  • At CWA, I’m the only one that does what I do, and it’s one of my favorite things about my job: I can iterate, follow my intuition, try crazy things that-just-might-work, make mistakes and make changes, revise my lesson plans on a dime.

  • Although, the independence is also one of the most challenging things about my job: 1. I can’t learn from anyone else doing the same thing in different ways, 2. I can’t receive feedbck from people I trust that also do the same thing, and 3. there’s no one that really understands my job well enough to tell me, on my best days, ‘Damn, Joe, you nailed it!’. #teaching


The Ringer: When Do TV Shows Peak?

  • Individual TV Show Aging Curves

  • “there’s a clear shape to [a TV series lifecycle]: an initial incline…, leading up to a peak, a plateau, a decline, and then a rebound right at the end, corresponding to the series finale.”

  • “Constant self-scrutiny and repeated reinvention are the only antidotes to stagnation.”

  • Started a list of Great™ TV episodes.

Basketball Pop-A-Shot, Great Ball Contraption module

Esquire: Teller Profile

  • “Like jokes, [magic] tricks should have little plots with a twist at the end that’s both implausible and yet logical. You shouldn’t see the punchline coming, but when you do see it, it makes sense. The secret to a great trick isn’t really its method; the method behind most tricks is ugly and disappointing, something blunt and mechanical.… What matters in magic is the idea — not just the idea, but the expression of the idea.” #design

All Your Favorite Amazon Brands, From BSTOEM to ZGGCD

The Dark Side of Longform Journalism

Mcquarrie on the Process of Making M:I Fallout #theprocess

  • “I’m not precious about my ideas. If you’re worth anything, you’ll have more.”

  • “Disaster is an opportunity to excel. When things go wrong, it forces you to be more creative, and you invariably finish the movie looking back on that thing and say, ‘Boy, if that hadn’t happened, just imagine what the movie would have been like if we’d gone according to plan.’… When [chaos] comes, I know it’s the greatest gift in the ugliest packaging.”

  • “There are no rules until you write them. You start with a clean page, and you quickly convince yourself that ‘I can’t do this because that has happened, or I can’t do this because I want that to happen.’ What Mission has taught me is just let all that go. What needs to happen?… it allows us to explore.”


The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

  • “Well, that’s what the consumer wants, and we’re not putting a gun to their head to eat it.… If we give them less, they’ll buy less, and the competitor will get our market. So you’re sort of trapped.”

  • “the perfect break point: people like a chip that snaps with about four pounds of pressure per square inch.”

  • “[Cheetos] is one of the most marvelously-constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.”

Creative People Say No

  • “do not ask how much time something takes, but how much creation it costs.”

  • “This interview, this letter,… this dinner with friends, this party…. How much less will I create unless I say ‘no’? A sketch? A stanza? A paragraph? An experiment? Twenty lines of code? The answer is always the same: ‘yes’ makes less. We do not have enough time as it is. There are groceries to buy, gas tanks to fill, families to love and day jobs to do.”

  • “it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of [time,]… the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day.”

This Does Not Compute, retro technology video essays

Gene Siskel “I want movies to be good.… But if you were to stop me any day and say, ‘Gene, do you expect to see a good movie or a bad movie today?’ I would tell you I’m expecting to see a bad movie. The reason is that most of the movies I see are bad. I’m being practical in telling you that most of the things that people create aren’t all that interesting, and that’s too bad. What keeps me going is that I have a strong desire to see something great. And when I see it, it lasts for a long time.”


In This [Omaha] Illusionist’s House of Mysteries, Secrets Didn’t Vanish, by none other Casey “KCLO” Logan

Vox: Honoring Students’ Names

  • hidden curriculum: “the unintended lessons kids learn in school — things that live between the lines, and in hallways, and in roll call.… [Things] we don’t say it out loud.”

Tiny House: Cedar & Black Steel, with an extra tiny-tiny house extension, second-storey walkway, and the projector screen is the window cover (brilliant!)

Lessons From The Screenplay: Mad Men – Layers of Meaning

  • A perfect video essay of a perfect episode of a perfect show.

  • “There’s 1. the slogan (or text) of a marketing campaign. There’s 2. the deeper meaning being created (the subtext). And finally, 3. there’s symbolic imagery, evocative visuals that enhance the power of this meaning. The writers of Mad Men use these same tools….”

The Take: Midsommar’s “Happy” Ending

  • “The film’s title takes on another layer of meaning when you consider that Dani and her twenty-something friends are in the phase of life that the Hårga might describe as ‘mid-summer’: ‘Well, we think of life like the seasons, so you’re a child until you’re 18 — and that’s spring; and then at some point we all do our pilgrimage, which is between 18 and 36 — and that’s summer.”


Vince Carter officially retired, which means I’m now older than every player in the NBA. Which isn’t necessarily significant of anything, but is an interesting milestone I’ve been keeping track of.

I skimmed through my whole Instapaper queue (2700+ articles, the oldest of which were from May, 2011), sent ≈ 100 articles to my Kindle that still feel interesting, and then deleted my Instapaper account.

  • This queue has been a long-standing pursuit/burden. For years, I’ve been saving articles at a faster pace than I’ve been reading them… and so, just burying the future in unfinished goals from the past. (Which is a recurring sticky-wicket for me, and something I’m really working on avoiding.) So from now on, I’ll just be sending articles directly to my Kindle.

  • Pruning this list is the kind of thing I’ve been using my summers for: unburdening myself of unfinished goals, making space for the future. #summerofjoe

Shel Silverstein’s Unlikely Rise to Kid Lit Superstardom


I feel amazing when I can wake up in the morning, and I have an entirely unstructured day ahead of me — when there are no appointments, nothing I have to do, and I can work-on and pursue whatever feels important. (Summer break is one of the reasons teaching works so well for me.) And ironically, I actually feel especially productive on these days because I’m choosing exactly where to apply my energy, and so I tend not to procrastinate. #summerofjoe

  • But this feeling is indicative of an underlying anxiety about time. It’s not healthy for any and every demand on my time to feel problematic — it’s not at all a realistic lifestyle. #anxiety

Cult of Pedagogy: Flash Feedback #teaching

  • “Focus on 1–2 learning objectives. Covering too many topics tends to overload students, so they learn… no lessons deeply.” Example strategy: “Focus an assignment and its feedback solely on [those] 1–2 targeted learning goals [instead of big assignments with multiple learning goals].”

  • “Students must be the primary ones finding answers, patterns, and approaches….” Example strategy: “[Individually,] students rate and reflect on their work,… [then, with the teacher, they] share their ratings and what they noticed when comparing their work to the example,… then [together, they] use those thoughts to plan an actionable path forward.”


Brothertiger: Fundamentals, Vol. 1 Good™

How The Internet Shaped the 2010s #socialmedia

  • “We thought tech would bring us closer together. Instead it has scrambled our minds, our politics and our relationships.”

  • “Those who warned of ‘filter bubbles’ and ‘echo chambers’ were right, but right in an unexpected way. Both phrases misleadingly suggest spending our digital days in a warm bath of mutual agreement, when what really happens is that social media shows us our enemies behaving at their most outrageous (and thus compelling) worst. And we’re rewarded, with shares and likes, for condemning them in hyperbolic terms”


THE lazy NBA, NBA newsletter

Detail in Typography: Letters, Letterspacing, Words, Wordspacing, Lines, Linespacing, Columns Good™ #summerofjoe

  • “Because typefaces have to meet various demands and fulfill various functions, a particular typeface cannot be described as generally good or bad, useful or useless.”

  • “‘ordinary’… type does not attract the reader’s attention;… it does not force itself between the text and the reader.”

  • “While the capitals have retained in their basic structure the static… appearance of inscriptions, the lowercase… shows the dynamic characteristics of flowing handwritten forms….”

  • I hadn’t noticed this before: lowercase letters tend to be curvier and more nuanced than the corresponding capitals (a, f, g, h, m, n, t), because they evolved from handwriting (and not from stone tablets).

  • “The space between letters [kerning] is a function of their interior spaces, or counters. The smaller the counter, the smaller the space between letters, and vice versa.”

iOS: Quickly Select (and Delete) All Photos


Tacoma’s Proctor District + University of Washington #summerofjoe

  • “[The streetcar] route traveled [from downtown Tacoma] west along modern-day North 26th Street and then made a sharp turn north onto [Proctor] Street. Some of the first users were probably horse racing advocates who got off near this turn to walk [one block] south to the track once situated where the Safeway store is now. Once such a stop was established, business entrepreneurs could easily see the potential of building any kind of commercial enterprise to attract the rider. Businesses would draw more businesses, and then families would come to build houses away from… Tacoma’s downtown. After families came churches and schools — the symbols of a settled community. In this manner, the Proctor streetcar suburb was formed.”

  • This is so interesting. There’s a streetcar stop… and 130 years later, I’m living in an apartment on 25th & Proctor, and I can see this Safeway from my living room window.


Before Watchmen: Minutemen Good™ #summerofjoe

  • This is the last of several graphic novels that I’ve been reading/reviewing and I’ve decided to part with. Not because I don’t enjoy them, but because it doesn’t make sense to me now to own books (or anything, really) that I don’t: 1. have big, lush memories or meaning attached to, or 2. use frequently — Great™ stuff.

  • For my whole life up through my mid-30s, I collected things (toys, games, movies, music, books, comics) where the stuff was really just an embodiment of concepts (creativity, problem-solving, design) that I just wanted to hold in my hand. (And most of the particular things weren’t that important. Like this book, which I’ve owned for a few years but hadn’t read until today.) It was (and continues to be) the concepts — more than the things — that I was invested in.

  • Maybe it takes perspective to be able to recognize what feels worth keeping — which things are full of memory and meaning. But all of those collections that I once had are represented now (on my shelves, in my closet, or digitally) by a fraction of what they once were.

  • I’m letting go of a KALLAX-shelf-worth of books, which means I’ve met my goal of owning ≤ 25 books total. That’s awesome!!

Rewatched High Fidelity Great™ Good™ #40


World Time Buddy, timezone visualizer

Bought an IKEA ‘Bottle’ Shelf Insert for my desk.


Built a new iOS Shortcut to replace Drafts: 1. for fun — just to see if it was possible (which motivates a lot of my coding projects), but 2. using fewer apps feels better than using more.

Rewatched The Game Great™ Good™ #40

Jack Handey “If God dwells inside us, like some people say, I sure hope He likes enchiladas, because that’s what He’s getting!”


Reread Batman: Dark Victory Good™ #summerofjoe

The Man in the Iron Lung

Dating Around2 Good™

  • This show is so interesting! And simultaneously, I don’t imagine myself in these situations anymore, and I don’t really see myself dating again. The unlikelihood of finding a real connection vs. all the akwardness and hurt feelings of trying — it all seems pretty ridiculous to me now. I’m not saying that I won’t, ever, but I don’t intend to try, and I’m feeling really good about where I am in my life, as it is. #goodeitherway

Rewatched TRON: Legacy Not Great™ #40

  • I don’t think this is a particularly good movie, but the sights and sounds on their own have left a real impression on me, and I think about them a lot. This was joyous to watch on the projector with headphones turned up.


The Pudding: How Music Evolved, Every #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, 1958–2015 #summerofjoe

  • Dang that was interesting! I listened to the whole thing… and jesus, did it bring back a lot of memories!

  • The #1 song on my birthday was Rise by Herb Alpert, which is also the source of the sample in Hypnotize by Notorious B.I.G. — also a #1 song!… and only 17 years later!).

  • Some of my most vivid kid memories are connected to music. Possibly my earliest memory (period) is of sitting in the living room, listening to Islands in the Stream by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton with mom (which would’ve been when I was 4!), 2. a road trip with George Michael’s Faith album on repeat (8), 3. many, many songs from the late 80s and early 90s (Paula Abdul, Bobby Brown, Janet Jackson, Prince) from rolling around at Skateland (8–12), and 4. listening to “tapes”, Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Swass (which was a hilarious topic of discussion among my 4th or 5th grade friends), and later, with a Walkman and headphones, vacuuming to C+C Music Factory’s Gonna Make You Sweat (11).

  • And then starting in 1994/95 (14/15), my life is basically an unbroken string of memories connected to music. It’s possible that the first song I truly loved Here Comes the Hotstepper by Ini Kamoze started the era when music really became a thing for me.


In March (for remote classes), we enabled email for 4th and 5th graders to help with communicating. And it’s crazy how quickly email vernacular showed up — the “Awesome, thanks!”, the “Looking forward to it!”, the “Thanks, I'll check it out!”, the unnecessary email signatures. Crazy. #email

jQuery: Get multiple items from another page with just one call

  • Using this technique to streamline the way the “The last thing…” About paragraph loads. Compared to my first version, this new script only loads this page (Journal) in the background once (instead of multiple times), and does it without loading any images (which I discovered it was doing recently, and was adding megabytes of unnecessary data to About).

MunroHoberman “Debugging [is a] puzzle game.”


MakeCode for micro:bit 2020 Release, expanding/collapsing blocks, step-by-step debugger, dot-to-dot connectors, prompt for project name, and more.

DC: The New Frontier Good™ #summerofjoe

  • Darwyn Cooke is my all-time favorite illustrator.

LEGO Masters1 Great™

  • From the beginning, there’s an x-factor that the strongest builders had that the other builders didn’t. It’s a design principle that goes by lots of names — the show’s judges (the LEGO employees) called it ‘story’, I would call it juiciness, and it’s also described as ‘clever execution’, feeling ‘finished/complete’, or ‘tightness of concept’. #design

  • It’s: 1. a conceptual thread 2. that ties every part of the design together, making it one, single thing, it 3. doesn’t exist at any one place in the design — it’s an accumulation of all the creative choices embedded inside it.

  • The show itself is an example of it. The juice/story/thread/concept that exemplifies the show is playful self-awareness: Will Arnett’s sincere-goofball hosting, the ingenuity of the weekly challenges, the surprises and ‘twists‘, the guest hosts that that match the theme of that week‘s challenge, the minifigs that represent the contestants’ elimination — all of those choices add up to one thing.

  • It’s the thing that defines the best LEGO builders, graphic designers, illustrators, teachers — the best of any creative skill. The ability to recognize it is an innate skill — I don’t think it’s possible to teach someone to recognize it — you get it, or you don’t.

  • The winner is a builder that I’ve been a fan of for years. It’s fascinating to see that the people who’ve consistently brought the x-factor in the past, can continue to bring it in the future, in new situations, with unknown materials and constraints.


JK Brickworks: Modular Marble Run System + Instructions

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Not Great™ + Yooka-Laylee Not Great™

  • Both of these are based on games that were hugely influential to me growing up (Animal Crossing on GameCube and Banjo-Kazooie on N64) — games I have dreamy memories of playing and have thought about countless times since.

  • But I’m not into the latest versions. Ironically, they deliver on what I’d hoped for (more and better of the same). But… the kinds of games I’m interested in playing now have changed: 1. I prefer short games (5–10 hours), 2. collecting items feels tedious and anxiety-inducing, and 3. I gravitate towards games with intentional, meaningful narratives now.

  • This is a classic example of how subjectivity works in the Scale. New Horizons is an incredible game, objectively. But subjectively, it’s just not for me.


I alternate between the two Taco Bells closest to my apartment, in order to avoid seeming like I go to Taco Bell too often. (A few weeks back, the person at the drive-through said, “You’re here all the time,” which confirmed my suspicion that maybe I go… more than average.) I mean, I have no idea how often other people go to Taco Bell. Me: I go once a week (Friday Night Taco Joe Time). And very rarely, twice.

(Ila) 4th grader  “Hi Mr. Sparano, I want to thank you for such an amazing year! I want to honor your persistence and your amazing laugh! The emoji project and the spheros were awesome! Too bad someone cracked the outside… anyway I loved this year because this was the year of the most amazing projects! I loved all the exciting things that made this year memorable! The game design, the all on one-page drawing, and the account hacking were the best!… I hope you’re having a great summer!”

  • Three people have mentioned my laugh recently, and it’s starting to get to me. I have literally never thought about it before.

Tiny Home Storage Idea Compilation

  • This year, the thought of designing, building, and living in a tiny house some day has started to feel especially compelling and especially likely. It’s a response to being 40, reflecting on the past and planning for the future, and feeling that maybe I really do just want to be on my own. #goodeitherway #40

Nikola Jokic “Assist makes two people happy. A point make one [person] happy.” #basketballquotes


If You Want to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation

  • “Unrestrained capitalism… in making possible the pursuit of near limitless personal fortunes, often at someone else’s expense, [puts] a cash value on our moral commitments.”

  • “the original wall for which Wall Street is named was built by the enslaved at a site that served as the city’s first organized slave auction.”

Rewatched Quiz Show Great™ #40

  • My favorite thing about this movie is the dialog. It’s so snappy.

  • “You, too, can be rich.… If the ratings stay high.”


On Design Thinking #design

  • “You face wicked problems by struggling with them, not by solutioning them. You argue, you iterate, you fail, you grieve, you fight.”

  • “Just as the Depression enabled industrial design to present itself as the solution to US manufacturing woes, the 2000 to 2002 dot-com crash and 2008 recession, with their long tails, have enabled the rise of a new embrace of design and a new broadening of design’s imagined jurisdiction. This time the specific fear is that the knowledge economy is coming for everyone. Bewildered and anxious leaders… have responded by throwing in their lots with the seemingly magical knowledge-work that is design.”

Bought the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality.


First weekend of summer break. My first summer project was consolidating and organizing my stuff in boxes in the closet. I found several things that I’m ready to part with (LEGO sets, old art projects, and toys). And these are things I’d decided to keep last time I minimized (moving to Tacoma)… which were things I’d decided to keep the times before that (including, moving to Seattle). #summerofjoe

  • I like that, as I get older, it’s easier to recognize what matters to me. That applies to the present (where I’m willing to focus my day-to-day attention and energy). But also the past (what memoribilia I’m willing to let go of). I’m not getting less nostalgic or sentimental — it’s just that I’m feeling more willing to concentrate that meaning into fewer and fewer things.

  • It’s very possible that (furniture excluded) I’d be able to fit everything I own in my car — which I like as a measurement of having minimized enough.

Christoph Niemann: Night Train animated GIF

The Company You Keep Good™

  • I’m a big fan of Shia LaBeouf.


As a teacher, I still feel I’m at my best when I’m teaching about the creative process — helping kids think about how something was made (its construction/design/intent/purpose). That was true teaching undergrad graphic design, and it’s true teaching elementary school technology. #teaching #theprocess

Rewatched Source Code Great™ Good™ #40


REVA Electric E-bike Branding

Vicky Cristina Barcelona Good™

  • Penélope Cruz, forever.


Terrace House4: Opening New Doors Good™

  • “I created a misunderstanding.”

  • “There’s a lot to worry about when it comes to romance.”

  • “Her eyes are so round.”

  • “whatever fades now was bound to fade eventually anyway.”


Guard Your ID Rollers, encrypted ink stamp that obscures sensitive info

Untools, problem-soving and decision-making frameworks

Re-personalizing time May


The Origin of Nintendo’s Game & Watch Games

  • “The chip used in Game & Watch was the same as in calculators. A single number on a calculator display is composed of seven segments, so… if a chip can calculate 8 digits, that’s 7 segments times 8 digits for a total of 56 segments.… [We] could turn each of those segments on or off, and use them instead to represent objects, rather than numbers.”

  • “Thinking up all kinds of ideas for dealing with such constraints was lots of fun. We had to figure out how to make a game with just the few pieces available.… When you’re working under constraints is when ideas pop up.… It isn’t necessarily a good thing to have absolute freedom when you make something new.”

Bought more Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons (Purple + Orange). #treatjoeself

Rewatched State of Play Great™ Good™ #40


Batman: The Animated Series Poster Series, by Phantom City Creative & Mondo

How Parents Succumb to Kid Culture

  • kid culture: “the idea that children need to inhabit a world unto themselves that has been carefully organized and constructed by adults;… that ‘family life’ means doing something targeted specifically or exclusively toward children;… that to become a parent is to forfeit citizenship of a larger culture, reinforced by the sly, ubiquitous US capitalist pressure to consume and experience one’s way through a competitive childhood.”


I don’t feel like an introvert or extrovert: 1. I like people and I like being alone, 2. I’ve landed at a job surrounded by hundreds of people (many of them wacky, loud, socially-exhausting people), and I like working from home for months at a time (in quarantine), 3. I love my friends, and I chose to move away from everyone I know to live in a city where I knew no one, 4. I feel anxious speaking to groups of people, and I often feel like the best version of myself in exactly those situations. All of these things are true simultaneously. #goodeitherway, reply to emails where people who’ve written them have lazily asked a bunch of questions without considering how difficult it’ll be to reply to them without filtering and re-organizing the original questions.

Firefox: Inspector Fonts, inspect and adjust fonts on a page + video

PICO-8: RNDGAME, random game name generator

Nintendo Handheld Pixel Art Timeline #pixels

27, free, anonymous image hosting


Here’s a bonus of remote teaching (it’s not all bad): I’ve been able to experiment with new projects ideas — and they’ve been pretty successful! (4th Interactive micro:bit Animations, 5th Technology GIFs, 5th Conversation with Future You). This is a great time to try new things because student participation is so low that… it doesn’t really matter what lessons I teach.

Ukelele song from 4th grader (Ayla) “Thank you, Mr. Spa–ran–o. / You are so– tech–no! / You teach us coding knowledge, / then send us off to college. / Thank you,… ”

Atom: + = delete matching brackets

Bartender, hide Mac menu bar icons


CS50: Intro to Game Development, a (Harvard?!) online course

  • Coding (and specifically, coding for game design) continues to feel like the next big thing for me — an ideal overlap of personal and professional goals. #coding

Pebble: iClone, Apple Watch-like analog watchface

Abstract: Christoph Niemann (Illustration)

  • “It’s just about showing up and getting started. And then something amazing happens or it doesn’t happen. All that matters is: you enable the chance for something to happen. And for that, you have to sit at your desk — and you have to draw, and do, and make decisions, and hope for the best.”

  • “[With juggling], at any given moment, there’s one ball in the air. And this is something that I hate so much: this idea of no control. But this approach of not planning opens a new door.… it leads to these magic moments.” #teaching

  • “Your general notion is that doing something [good] makes you more confident. With ideas, I often find that it’s the opposite: with every good idea you have, it actually becomes more difficult because… you can’t repeat.… You measure yourself against a lucky moment.”

Blinkist: God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens

  • “Those who have faith should be happy, because they at least claim their beliefs are the key to bliss and everlasting happiness. Yet… instead of taking comfort in their own salvation, they seek to impose their beliefs on others”

  • “Religions act intolerantly because they are insecure about other faiths and systems of knowledge. At the heart of every religion is the claim that they can provide the answer to all questions.… Thus, permitting alternative faiths or explanations would admit the possibility that God is not omnipotent and undermine the religious position.… [So,] religions are incapable of being tolerant — they must interfere in the lives of others.”

  • “Religion fills [the] gaps in our knowledge and exploits our uncertainties…. As long as we remain fearful as a species, religion will continue to exist and exert power.”


Gaussian Curve: Clouds Good™

Advanced Picross Techniques

Friends with Kids Good™

Beaver Brand® Mustards Great™


Bought Artifact Bags Face Masks: Gray + Olive.


SpotMenu, Spotify now playing info in the menu bar

This Column Will Change Your Life: Deep Fun

  • “Not meditation or gratitude journalling or jogging (unless you find those fun). Not things you think are supposed to be fun. I mean the things you actually find fun. This distinction matters… because in the modern attention economy, all sorts of things… want you to believe they’re the funnest thing you could be doing. Conceivably, for any given person, they might be. But true fun — deep fun… — is a subtle and personal thing, and not necessarily in anyone else’s commercial interests.”

  • “What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes?” ⇠ Carl Jung

  • Quarantine has re-personalized more time in my day — and it’s a balance that feels right. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much time to myself as an adult (which is really saying something) — and I love it. I’ve been doing only and exactly what I want to be: reading, coding, video games, LEGO, organizing thoughts, movies, junk food. I love that I don’t have to go anywhere. For me, it’s been an opportunity to make less time for everyone really.

  • I’m even relieved that I don’t have to go back to Omaha this summer. As much as I like catching up with friends, I also just really like being at home.

  • It’s clear that I require more time to myself than most people. And so, it’s very possible (despite what I said earlier this year about having a family) that my life, exactly as it is, is already my best life. I do relish having so much control over my time, and being on my own happens to work really well for what I feel like I need. #goodeitherway

  • Quarantine has confirmed for me that I feel great on my own. I feel: 1. more comfortable and less anxious, 2. more creative, and 3. more productive.


Bitsy: Above The Waters, the life of a lighthouse keeper

The Last Dance Good™

  • “The way that I go about my life is, I set examples. And if it inspires you: great.… If it doesn’t, then maybe I’m not the person that you should be following.”


Bought a Vornado Large Air Circulator.


Rewatched Little Children Great™ Good™ #40

  • Kate Winslet, forever.

LANY: Malibu Nights Good™

Pimoroni, electronic gadgets and kits


I’ve developed a system for organizing my reading that’s been working for me: 1. staying updated (and mostly removed from the social internet) through RSS/Twitter feeds in Feedbin, 2. using unique email addresses and Fastmail filters to automatically forward email newsletters and notifications to Feedbin (which keeps my inbox super clean by eliminating messages that aren’t from actual people), 3. using Send to Feedbin Pocket to save long web articles to read later. #email #socialmedia

Aseprite: Animal Crossing QR Code Generator, drawing on a desktop instead of the necessarily-clunky Switch UI #pixels

Now that I’m eating so many meals at home, I picked up more of two of my favorite purchases of all time: Corelle Square plates and bowls + humangear GoBites Uno Sporks.


Buddy-Buddy, graphic design studio

JANGBRiCKs, comprehensive LEGO set video reviews


Google Drive URL Tricks: /template/preview = generate a copy automatically + /preview = display without UI


At our faculty meeting, we were reflecting on remote teaching, and one question was: “What will you take from this and use when you’re teaching [in real life] again?” For me, working with kids from afar has emphasized the importance of The Hook — having a moment (a small, interactive puzzle, thought experiment, creative challenge) that’s engineered to get kids invested in whatever big idea we’ll be working with later. Not that I haven’t used hooks before, but the last few weeks have highlighted that it can really flip the switch. Especially remotely, when kids can opt-out of… whatever they want. #teaching

  • I’ve had some real successes recently: 1. in 5th grade: deciphering the Olly Moss Harry Potter covers got them hyped for making visual connections in their own t-shirt design, 2. in 4th grade: challenging kids to trace my basketball symbol sketch (like a puzzle to solve) got them stoked for practicing vector drawing tools, and 3. in 3rd grade: the stuffed animal Bitsy exercise got them hooked on learning Bitsy on their own. Wins on wins.

Survivor: Winners at War Good™


Pebble: Make Me Smile, cartoony weather icon watchface

Presentify, screen annotate anything

PICO-8 #tweetcarts: Tetris + Tetris Attack + PicOXO (Tic-Tac-Toe), with CPU logic!

Pop-Tarts®: Froot Loops® Good™



  • For the first time, I ordered my groceries online and just picked them up. It was magnificently easy, and I think I’m sold on online grocery-buying, pandemic or not.

  • I did this mostly because wearing a mask (which I am doing) still feels too awkward for me to bear. One thing I avoid (at most any cost) is being noticed for doing something in public that most other people aren’t doing. With wearing masks, there isn’t yet a critical mass of wearers… so both wearing and not, I feel like a weirdo. #anxiety

Lazy Devs Academy: We Are All Game Beginners, postmortem on the process of making Porklike

  • “Sometimes you need to confront yourself and throw away something that you’ve been holding onto. More often than not, we are the ones who are holding us back.”

  • “The idea of weird [creative-process lifehacks]… is rooted in a harmful assumption that the reason why you can’t finish your thing is because there’s something wrong with you…. If this is really the case, why is every creative person broken in exactly the same way? Why are writers, musicians, and filmmakers struggling with the same problems?”

  • I really want to start working on a game of my own this summer. I’ve been noting ideas for awhile, and I starting a journal of my progress.

Browser-based Photoshop alternatives: Pixlr E + Photopea

Excalidraw, hand-drawn-esque diagrams

Warren Buffett “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.”

Finishing a Video Game


Firefox: Picture-in-Picture, pop-out video into its own window


How Plants Memorize, Communicate, Problem-Solve, & Socialize

  • “In a plant, a single brain would be a fatal flaw because they have evolved to be lunch.… You can remove 90% of a plant without killing it. ‘You need to imagine a plant as a huge brain. Maybe not as efficient as in the case of animals, but diffused everywhere.’”

PICO-8: Educational Toolset Carts, basic game mechanics

MouseCraft Not Great™


Tiago Catarino: LEGO Printer

RAC: BOY Not Great™

PICO-8: Piano #tweetcart

Game Maker’s Toolkit: The Designer’s Vision vs. Player Feedback #design

  • “feedback shouldn’t be used to find solutions, but rather generate questions that [the designer] can ask themselves.”

  • “feedback should be used to sand off the roughest edges…, but shouldn’t lead to the removal of everything that makes the [thing] interesting”

  • “[Instead of integrating the feedback] and make what we consider a ‘worse game’ to make people happy…, [we] shifted the dynamic from ‘Help us make the best version of the game,‘ to ‘Help us make the game we’re aiming for.’”

Minimal Gallery, minimalistic web inspiration

Berkelium 1541, 4×5 pixel font (from the Commodore 64 GEOS) #pixels

Google Slides: Virutal Museum


Edamame: Virga Good™

Firefox: Distraction-Free YouTube


Some things that blow about teaching remotely: 1. Our Specialist lessons need to be optional (because some families want less structure from the school right now and some want more). So, 2. kids may or may not do the lessons we assign — and both have to be OK. So, 3. I have to spend time designing lessons that (in the end) a very small percentage of students will actually do. Additionally, 4. I still need to plan robust lessons every week (to account for the families that expect them). But, 5. the lessons I’m designing can’t be that complex or interesting (because so many students won’t have done the work, so lessons can’t build on last week’s learning). Which means, 6. I haven’t yet found a way to balance the conflicting goals in all of this, and I’m frustrated by how much of my teaching energy feels wasted.

KOBE! Typography T-shirt

  • “People yell ‘Kobe’ when they throw a wad of paper at the trash can because there’s no suspense in yelling ‘Michael’: The whole point of Michael was that you knew he wouldn’t miss.” The Ringer


Let it be known that, at 8:42pm on May 5th, 2020: all of my texts and emails were read and replied-to. Both inboxes are at zero — for the first time in maybe two years. #email

  • This is absurd. I don’t even get that many messages. They’ve just been the same messages, not-being-responded-to.

  • If I let tasks/messages/stuff pile up: I procrastinate. The only solution is to either take care of it now or thoughtfully postpone it. Either way, the list needs to stay short and realistic, or I won’t even try. #anxiety, extracting web content: Push to Kindle + Plain Text + 2-Column PDF + Feed Creator, build an RSS feed for a site without one


Since we went to remote teaching, I’ve been helping in 5th grade homerooms for an hour every morning. In today’s breakout room, our discussion questions were about workload and breaks. I reframed the question ‘How are you taking care of yourself?’ to ‘What are you doing for You Time?’ (except for each student, I asked using their name: Maclaren Time, Teo Time, George Time, etc).

  • It was a nice. They don’t know this, but it’s a connection to Joe Time, time that I value more than maybe anything, period. But they did seem to get, intuitively, that that question was specific to them: what are the things that you do just for you? Things that help you feel like you’re priortizing yourself? You can learn a lot about someone by asking that question.

playmeo, database of classroom games/ice-breakers + just the free activities

CSS Diner, CSS Selector Tutorial


Nicholas Carr: Content Collapse #socialmedia

  • content collapse: “the tendency of social media to blur traditional distinctions among once-distinct types of information…. As social media becomes the main conduit for information of all sorts — personal correspondence, news and opinion, entertainment, art, instruction, and on and on — it homogenizes that information as well as our responses to it.”

  • “Many of the qualities of social media that make people uneasy stem from content collapse. 1. by leveling everything, social media also trivializes everything — freed of barriers, information, like water, pools at the lowest possible level.… 2. The software’s formal constraints place tight limits on our expressiveness…. the form of the responses (repost, retweet, like, heart, hashtag, fire emoji) and their content (Love! Hate! Cringe!). 3. content collapse puts all types of information into direct competition. [Everyone needs] to tailor their content and its presentation to the algorithms that determine what people see. The algorithms… judge everything by the same criteria [engagement]. 4. content collapse consolidates power over information, and conversation, into the hands of the small number of companies”

The Assistant Not Great™


Tourist: Everyday Good™


I said this during a conversation about dating, and it really sums up my feeling about it all: “It’s so complicated. Why bother?” #relationships

I’m more conscious than ever of which people in my life: 1. make space for real conversations (having things to say, asking questions and actually being interested in the answers) vs. 2. people who prefer an illusion of conversation (having things to say).

  • It’s not that I need conversations to be about me. It’s that, if you see me as just a generic person in your audience (and not a specific person in your life), I have plenty of other things I’d rather be doing.

PICO-8: fliqlo Flip Clock, a demake of my all-time favorite screen-saver

FUAY single. Just release the album.

  • It seems that streaming music has amplified the number of artists generating hype by releasing one… song… at… a… time… for months leading up to the full album release. I’m assuming that the goal is to pop into our field of vision multiple times (instead of the one-time visibility of an album). And it’s doubly effective because Spotify’s UI doesn’t visually distinguish albums from singles — so it’s impossible to tell if this new track is part of an album or just one track on a single by itself. And so, while I’m listening, I have to keep clicking through to confirm there aren’t more tracks inside (which, 19 times out of 20: there are not).

  • This trend plays off of current internet forces: 1. the way screens flatten and decontextualize (albums and singles look the same), and 2. the way the feed incentivizes newness — so people must employ content marketing and strategy to stay relevant (creating noise pollution for everyone, but for the benefit of just the noisemakers).

  • I’m writing this on a Friday, where my Release Radar is often full of these kinds of tracks.

  • Another pattern in my anxiety: worrying that I’ll miss a detail in something important to me . And especially that, if I don’t look into it now, I’ll forget to look into it later. #digitalanxiety #anxiety

thinking + doing = learning April


Burnt Toast: Social Media series — GOYFP

Flic for Mac, using Flic buttons to control Mac apps


It’s not only that I feel comfortable being on my own, I feel most comfortable being on my own.

  • It’s interesting to consider how being an only child might be responsible for this, or not. If I had siblings, would I feel differently about being alone in my apartment for… months? I love solitude, and that aspect of my personality is so essential to who I am, I can’t imagine feeling any other way.

The Great Indoors T-shirt

AirConsole, browser-based gaming console (browser is the console, phones are controllers)

Bought some Flic 2 Smart Buttons. #treatjoeself Great™

  • Mostly, I’ll use these to control my LIFX bulbs.

  • The cumbersome-ness of using a smartphone as an interface for anything in the real world is silly. (And that silliness is glossed over by the design industry, which continues to design apps-as-buttons.) This separation of cause and effect is a minor offense among all the ways that screens are absorbing life as we know it. But over time, it adds up. And I just want a real button. #realness #digitalanxiety


This Is Not A Conspiracy Theory: Post-Show #6/#7

  • “There will be negative outcomes that you did not intend.… you can implement good rules — rules that you think are going to have a positive effect, and then they have a net negative effect — just because of the… inherent qualities of that system.” #design

  • This continues to be, maybe, the single most interesting thing I’ve experienced as a teacher. A room full of kids is a complex system. And, so it’s not possible to know how a classroom lesson will play out. Design and planning be damned. #teaching

  • It’s often frustrating, but 1. the fun of improvising work-arounds, 2. the humility necessary to own up to my mistakes, and 3. the inevitable surprises of people making choices — they’re also what make the job so exciting and so life-affirming. I’ve grown a lot as a person by designing lessons and then learning (later) how my intention mis-matched reality. #learningthroughdesign

  • Also, again, teaching is clear evidence that designers don’t control how their designs are used — it’s the people (as long as they have decisions to make) using a design that get to decide. (This aligns with Kirby’s thesis that the actors in a system have the most influence on it, not the people at the top.)


Bought instructions (and parts list) for Jerry Builds Bricks’ Batmobiles: Tim Burton’s Batman + Batman: The Animated Series.

  • I’ve discovered a trick recently that’s opened a whole new door for me in the LEGO world: 1. finding parts lists for a custom set (on Rebrickable MOCs or builders’ personal sites), 2. uploading it to a Bricklink Wanted List, which makes it easy to 3. order those pieces.

  • This technique also works for ordering brand new versions of LEGO sets that’ve gone out of production (since Rebrickable has all of the official sets indexed). Amazing!

Google Docs: Docs to Markdown


How Can We Politely Tell People We’d Rather Not Chat? #digitalanxiety

  • “We would never have caught up that regularly in pre-corona life.… it’s not like you can say ‘I’m busy’ — because what else is anyone doing at the moment?”

  • “[Say] what you need out loud, without excuses or cover stories. It’ll set up good habits for the post-pandemic world.… ‘I love you but I need to read a book alone for a while now.’”

  • “The disconnect firmly rooted in phone calls and texting provide me the kind of space it should be assumed I need if I’m not actively seeking out a friend [in person].” Why I Hate Video Chat

  • For whatever reason (maybe it’s stress from my new work responsibilities, maybe it’s exhaustion from communicating so much digitally [writing and video], or maybe it’s something else): but I need lots of Joe time right now — like, an unlimited supply. I feel great, I’m not the least bit depressed. I’m loving quarantine, honestly. I’m just enjoying and feeling the need for (even more than usual) time away from everything but my own pursuits.

Aseprite: Customize Export Sizes

DailyPixelArt, pixel art inspiration, organized into @​Pixel_Dailies collections #pixels

Nathan For You4: Finding Frances

  • “Can you figure out you?”

Ruby Sparks Not Great™


Working with Nick and Holly on refining my contract for next year, I thanked them for advocating for me. Because I have fewer classroom hours than most teachers, I really do think my job was at risk (even before than pandemic), and I’m convinced they’ve both been instrumental in keeping me around. They said, “You’re easy to advocate for. You’re a great colleage, and super easy to work with — which is not true for everyone.”

  • The reason I’m easy to work with is that they both give me a lot of leeway — to do what I feel is best, to apply my expertise, and to make my own curriculum decisions. They genuinely trust me, and I think that works out out best for everyone.

Why Wearing A Face Mask Helps: Vox + PBS

  • Post-pandemic, I will never-not be able to think about how far peoples’ breath travels again.

The Take: A Manic Pixie Dream Girl? Or Just a Heroine?

  • “The MPDG exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” A.V. Club

  • “The whole point of 500 Days of Summer is that Tom is overlooking — and intentionally misreading — Summer’s whole internal life and personality.”

  • “an exceptionally confident, unique, and inspirational female character isn’t on its own on expression of sexism”

Tom Scott: Microsoft’s Noble Commitment to Backwards Compatibility)

  • “People like a mixture of novelty and familiarity. If you change nothing: people get bored and move on to something else. If you change everything: people hate it, it breaks their workflow, and they move on to something else. Backwards compatibility, within reason, helps to find that balance.”

The Pudding: The Infinite Monkey Theorem Experiment

  • “The number of possibilities goes up exponentially with each new note, but the probability is never zero.”


So many times in my teaching career, I’ve managed to come up with lesson ideas at the last possible moment that work really well. Like, better than many lessons I plan in advance. Today (after another week of non-teaching responsibilities having filled my time), I had 30 minutes before class to plan.

  • The goal was to compel the 3rd graders to buy into their Bitsy project, and I knew I wanted the kids to: 1. design a sprite for themselves, 2. design a sprite to talk to, 3. add dialog, 4. struggle with pixel limitations to try to reproduce something real, 5. design towards a narrow and specific goal, but 6. around something fun and interesting to them. And to be able to do all of that in 5–7 minutes (our remote classes are just 20 minutes).

  • I searched for “kid interview prompts” and found Fun Questions to Get Your Kid Talking — specifically: “If your stuffed animals could talk, what would they say?” Which was everything I wanted.

  • So I designed a sample Bitsy conversation between me and a Cool Emoji I have sitting on my desk. And the kids were HOOKED. Several of them hung around on Zoom around after class to keep working, troubleshooting, and sharing. #teaching

  • My Cool Emoji character from the demo.

  • It’s fascinating how much it matters to ask the right question. I introduced this class to Bitsy last week, but I don’t think the value of it (as a creative tool) landed until today.

  • That question tied everything together — responding to it necessitated that kids would, naturally, work towards all of the learning goals I’d set for them. And this is an aspect of teaching that carries over directly from life as a graphic designer: being able to find those conceptual anchors that seamlessly connect the dots. Nailed it. 😎 #design

  • Of course, the reason I even put myself in the position to improvise a lesson on the spot is that I’m confident that I’ll be able to figure it out in time. And (almost always) I do.

Pebble: 7 SEG, 7-segment type watchface


Top-Down Low-Res Islands #pixels

100 8×8 Low-Res Pop Culture Character Collection #2 #pixels


Local H: Lifers Not Great™

Julian Frost, cartoony-weird illustrator


Recreated three more pixel fonts in FontStruct: 3Text + PICO-8 & MiniText + kirai_s

  • Pixels + Typography: two of my favorite things, together. #pixels

Here’s an interesting thought: if someone has something to sell you, their true intentions are unknowable. If they do something altruistic, purely out of the kindness of their heart, and that action somehow benefits the business, there will always be skepticism about why, really, they did that thing.

  • For example: companies that’ve discounted their products during the pandemic may be trying to help, but they may also be leveraging this situation as a promotional opportunity. There is no way to know because the business wins either way.

The Markup: When Is Anonymous Data Not Really Anonymous?

  • “87% of the U.S. population could be identified by just three data points: zip code + date of birth + gender.”

Takaya: Lone Wolf

  • “Do you think that Takaya is lonely, not being part of a family? / Part of the reason I love watching wolves is that they have all of these different personalities, and for him to be by himself, maybe it’s a choice. So maybe he’s doing exactly what he wants to be doing.”

  • “It’s really been inspiring to see a creature who theoretically is so social, but be so self-contained in an alone state. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be comfortable alone.”

  • Curiosity Kills a Lone Sea Wolf

Brandon James Greer: Top-Down Pixel Art #pixels

Brandon James Greer: Creating 4-Color Pixel Art Palettes #pixels

  • color-value: “The perceived strength of a color resulting from [a combination of its] hue, saturation, and brightness.” This is different from a color’s value alone (aka brightness).

  • “I [start] my artwork in grayscale first because it’s the easiest way to work out [a palette with balanced color-value contrast].”


Attended the Brickworld Chicago (Virtual) LEGO Convention


FUAY email signature.

  • Please. For the love of god. Delete your email signature. I know you. I already know where you work, what you do there, how to reach you, and what the logo of your employer looks like.

  • Email signatures are an example of the way marketing turns up the volume of noise in the world, benefiting (mostly) just the people who are shouting about themselves.

Flower Architecture Branding

Nerdy Teachers: Fantasy Console Comparison, PICO-8 vs. Pixel Vision 8 vs. TIC-80

JK Brickworks: Tensegrity Sculpture, gravity-defying thing

Tiago Catarino, LEGO mini-model builder

Tom Scott: The Chart of Language Sounds

  • “When you make a sound, you push air out of your lungs and then you cause some sort of constriction in your mouth or throat to create that particular sound. Two things that are really important are: 1. where in your mouth and throat that constriction is…, and 2. how much constriction you’re making…. The chart is organised based on those two factors.”


Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj4: The Dark Side of the Video Game Industry

Gato Roboto Not Great™


New Horizons: Basketball Courts + QR Codes

I’ve been hacking away at a custom Atom theme to replace FoldingText, and it’s going super well. Today, I figured out how to hide Markdown syntax unless the cursor is on that line (which is one of my favorite FoldingText features) — all through CSS. #coding


Emoji Request, vote on new emoji concepts

CloudConvert, web-based file converter

More RSS sources: Reddit + (using this to discover new Bitsy & PICO-8 games)


Regex: Lazy vs. Greedy, lazy searches (using ?) stop at the first match, while greedy searches match as much as possible. #coding

HTML: , Determines how much information about a website is sent along with its outgoing links.

  • So, none of the sites I’ve linked to will know that those clicks originated from here. Which feels more just to me — I think most internet analytics boil down to self-interested creeping.

  • Over the last few years, I’ve become really protective of my internet privacy: 1. I won’t post pictures of myself anytime I can avoid it, 2. on this site, personal journal posts (like this paragraph) are hidden from people who don’t have the link to this page, 3. I’ve hidden every page except About from search engines, 4. I rarely post publicly anywhere, but the times I do (Wikipedia, Twitter), I’ve created an alternate username that’s not connected to me,

  • What Is My Referrer?, referrer policy test

Don’t Take My Folders Away!, research study on how people use digital folders to organize information

  • “Folders may represent, if only crudely, a person’s emerging, often hard-won, understanding of the information items contained within, their relationships to each other, their important properties. Folders may be valuable information in their own right and not just a means of organizing information.”


Bitwarden, password manager

Waves Good™

Sincerely Louis C.K. Good™

Replacing Apple’s Default Emoji with JoyPixels + JoyPixels Font Files

CloudConvert, web-based file conversion


A disturbing and difficult dynamic of remote classes: when we’re all in different places, we have (literally) different perspectives. In a real life classroom, everyone can see what each other (literally) sees — we can all be looking at the same (actually the same) thing. Virtually, we’re all seeing something different (different devices, different apps and windows open, different technical issues in play). And even if someone appears to be looking in your direction, anything could be on their screen (between them and you) — and who knows what they’re actually seeing. #digitalanxiety

Taco Bell’s Enhanced Restaurant Safety Steps

  • Nothing can stop us!

Dash Dash, Linux manual (with an emphasis on typography)

il:lo: Sloh Good™

Tom Scott, video essays

  • This Video Has 6,441,416 Views

  • I, too, was a big fan of Yahoo! Pipes.

  • “for the time being, every few minutes, my code is going out to YouTube, asking how many views this video has, and then asking to update the title. Maybe it’s still working as you watch this. But eventually, it will break.” #digitalanxiety

  • “… Eventually, so will YouTube. So will everything.”

  • “But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build things anyway. Just because something is going to break in the end, doesn’t mean that it can’t have an effect that lasts into the future.… The world can be better because of what you built in the past.”

  • “Computer history museums are filled with the software and hardware that I grew up with…, because they all ran on their own — they didn’t need any ongoing support from an external company.”

  • I’m Not A Robot, the history of CAPTCHAs

  • Why Dark Video Is A Terrible Blocky Mess

The Take: ‘The One That Got Away’ Trope

  • “It’s romantic because it didn’t happen. If it had happened, it would’ve just been life.”

Vox by Design: The 8-bit Arcade Font Deconstructed


In a meeting (with adults) or in a class (with kids), the strategies for keeping people interested and on-task are really exactly the same, and equally effective. However, my mindset for running meetings is different — because I don’t think adults should need to be motivated to participate or follow instructions. Step up, bro.

  • … Which means that I’m not good at running meetings. Because many/most adults don’t take ownership of that implicit responsibility.

  • It’s interesting: both situations are frustrating, but my natural response is to let kids off the hook. I’m frustrated with myself if kids don’t participate or follow instructions.

  • I could choose to treat adults that way, too, but I refuse to work harder to compensate for their lack of ownership. And so, I will always be bad at running meetings. And I’m OK with that.

Realizing another thing I like about my two favorite sports (basketball and boxing): they require minimal equipment and maintenance. Basketball = a ball + a hoop (for me, at a park). Boxing = gloves + wraps + a bag (which, now that I have it, I’ll be good for years).

Google Drive: Pasword-protect a File with a Google Form

A philosophy on technology/coding (but also life?) “Instead of relying on something you don’t control, turn it into something you can control.”


Color Ninja Paletter, color-building tools

Gardein Vegetarian Meats Great™

Is Factory Farming to Blame for Coronavirus?


Added native HTML image/video/audio lazy-loading to this site — no Javascript lazy-loader (like the one I was using) required!

macOS: + + . = Toggle hidden files

Frameworks: Kings Good™


Tom Day: Some Reflections Good™

WMD: Saudade Good™

  • One thing I missed about working from home, from my years as a freelancer (that I’m getting to do again during remote teaching), is listening to music all day., appointment scheduler

  • Obsessive calendaring stuff is one of the hardest and weirdest things about modern life. #digitalanxiety

How to Make a No-Sew Face Mask


For our Specialist Remote Learning site, the first project I’m posting is: Tell a story or explain an important idea as a Bitsy game. And this week (#2), my tips are about: 1. inspiration in the creative process and 2. pixel illustration (being innovative with Bitsy’s constraints). #pixels

This lesson applies (in small ways) a few big teaching strategies that I’ve learned since starting at CWA: 1. designing lessons around interesting questions and challenges, 2. limiting technical demos by (instead) creating examples that highlight the specific concepts I want kids to learn, which will (hopefully) inspire them to explore the tool on their own, 3. getting kids working/creating as soon as possible, as they answer those questions/challenges.

  • In other words: thinking + doing = learning. #teaching

  • For example, instead of a video walkthough, the learning goals this week (pixel art techniques) are embedded in questions about my example: “The tree and the bench are both larger than 8×8 pixels (which is Bitsy’s maximum image size) — how is that possible?” and “The flower image is used 5 times in this scene — can you find them all?”

I get sentimental at the end of breaks/vacations. I really like my job, but I wouldn’t choose to devote so much of my life to teaching kids about technology if I didn’t need the income. (Maybe a few days a month, though — I mean, I do derive plenty of personal satisfaction from this particular job.) Overall, though, I don’t need to work to feel satisfied or accomplished. I have a job because I need a job, and I work to live (and not vice versa).

This Column Will Change Your Life: Why Hurry to Solve a Problem?

  • “What makes our intolerance for un-dealt-with problems so absurd is that life, from one perspective, is nothing but problems — or ‘challenges’, if you prefer — and a completely problem-free life would be devoid of anything worth doing, and thus of any value. So there’s no sense in rushing to solve any given problem solely to get it dealt with. There’s always another one waiting to replace it — and thank goodness for that.”

  • Another pattern in my anxiety: I tend to feel like I should hurry though things in my day, 1. even things I enjoy (like catching up on Feedbin) and reading generally, but also 2. routine things (getting ready in the morning and ready for bed at night). #anxiety

Wilbur (Animal Crossing) “Catch some bees and chop some trees.”


iOS: Gestures for Undo/Redo/Copy/Paste

macOS: Add to a Text File with Automator + Shell Script: + Passing Arguments to Automator Shell Scripts + Append + Prepend

  • I’m building Automator workflows that add/send new stuff to my text files (Tasks.txt, Journal.txt, Links.txt) super quickly.

  • So, for instance, when I want to save a link for later, I can: 1. press + + L (copies the link, formatted in Markdown), then 2. + Space (opens Launchbar), then 3. 'atl' (runs my Automator workflow Add to Links.txt). All of which takes 3 seconds. Awesome!

  • I’ve spent most of my Spring Break working on small digital/coding projects like this, and it’s been incredibly satisfying. I’ve had the whole week, 100%, to myself. #coding


LEGO 7: Jazz Quartet, Keyboard shortcuts database

  • macOS: + + ? = Open app Help menu

  • macOS: + = Select “Don’t Save” in a dialog box

The Trip to Greece Good™

  • “It’s nice to be liked, but you shouldn’t go out there trying to be liked.”

Batman: The Adventures Continue comics

  • I spent a good chunk of my life (12–30+) collecting Batman Adventures comics and the related titles. I loved the elegance of the illustrations, colors, and storytelling. Technically, these comics are intended for kids, but that demands a simplification of elements in an industry that caters to adults — these comics are conceptually and visually-streamlined versions of the adult comics. As a kid, I didn’t necessarily notice that, but that simplifying resonated with me in a major way. And continues to. #pleasurepoint

  • More comics in this universe that I missed: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures + Batman and Harley Quinn

ExifCleaner, clean metadata from photos/videos/PDFs

Pedro Medeiros: Grayscale, Isometric Dungeon Map


Animal Crossing Wiki, Wikipedia, but for Animal Crossing


David Blaine: The Magic Way Good™

Office Hours March


Coronavirus Ended the Screen-Time Debate

Uncut Gems Good™


Atom, customizable text/code editor

  • Maybe twice a year (for the last 5 years), I try a few FoldingText alternatives. While it’s been a life-changing app for me, it’s time to find something more stable — FT is so anxiety-inducing to use (wondering when the next crash will be and how many edits I might lose).

  • Atom Packages to simulate FoldingText: language-markdown + folding-markdown + document-outline + filter-lines + typewriter + auto-save-on-idle

  • Customizing Atom: Keybindings + Default Grammars

  • I spent the whole day (Spring Break!) building a theme for Atom. It’s not everything that I appreciate about FT, but it’s close (and in several ways, better), and I’m feeling super good about moving on. Which means… this is it: I’m ready to uninstall FoldingText. RIP old friend.

  • This (customizing and writing code for Atom) is the kind of creative challenge I tend to spend my time on when I have days to myself, and I love it. #coding

  • Here’s another pattern in the things that make me anxious: I worry about forgetting things. (In this case, about having typed a thought into FoldingText… that a crash might then erase). Other examples: journaling generally to save ideas/memories for re-thinking-about later, using Drafts to capture thoughts before I forget them. #anxiety

  • This is a useful anxiety, too, though. I learn a lot from reflecting on the past and making connections or finding patterns between thoughts and experiences.

Nine Inch Nails: Ghosts V: Together + Ghosts VI: Locusts Not Great™


Reply to a text message. Get another one back. Reply to a text message. Get another one back. Reply to a text message. Get another one back. All day.

  • And still, there are unread texts. How in the world do people keep up? #digitalanxiety

Firefox: Copy as Markdown, copy links in Markdown

8×8 1-Bit Monsters


BJG Pixel, 4×4 pixel typeface #pixels

  • I assembled this in FontStruct based on BJG’s typography… which he builds manually each time!

Bought Asesprite, pixel art/animation editor. #pixels

Brandon James Greer, pixel illustration video tutorials #pixels

  • Sprite and Canvas Size

  • “That’s right! The Super Nintendo is actually a slightly smaller resolution compared to the NES. Any graphical superiority… is not based on resolution, it’s based on color count.”

  • Pixel Vision: Drawing From an Object

  • “Identify the smallest detail to be retained and use that as the 1px reference point.”

  • Conceptually, this one of the reasons I’m fascinated by pixel art — it’s interesting to consider how few components of a thing define it and distinguish it from other things (not just visually, in every way).

  • 1-Bit Techniques

  • Highlights & Shadows With Hue Shifts

  • Highlights: 1. hue gets more yellow (sunlight casts everything in a… yellow tone), 2. saturation decreases, 3. brightness decreases.” + Shadows: 1. hue gets more purple (purple [is] the opposite… of yellow), 2. saturation decreases, 3. brightness decreases.”

  • Timelapse: Banana Star Grill

  • One of my favorite pixel illustrations of all time.

  • Lines and Curves

  • Sprite Analysis: Game Boy Pokémon (Top-Down Environments)

  • “[At this scale,] the presence or absence of a single pixel in the right shade can literally make or break the readability of an object.”

  • Animation: Squash & Stretch (Slime)

  • The production choices of this video series (type, color, music) are consistent (and beautifully-handled) from the get-go. Even his pixel art uses the same typeface throughout. As I’ve gotten older, my creative stance has shifted to making stuff first and allowing the details to work themselves out in the iterations — which has meant I’m generally more creative and less anxious about getting started (the evolution of my website is an example of that). But this video series and Lessons From the Screenplay are both strong cases for waiting to start until the details are right.


One of the unexpected highlights of teaching from home continues to be Office Hours. It’s optional, so kids who drop in are choosing to, and it’s been fun to see — when the Zoom doorbell rings — who might be there. I met with several kids this week: 1. a few (Maya, Ali, Carly) to share/troubleshoot Bitsy (my first project for, a 3rd grader (Colin) who just wanted to talk about LEGO, and 3. a 5th grader (Luke) who wanted to know how he could help teachers in the midst of all of these changes.

LEGO Pirates of Barracuda Bay + designer interview, playing on the concept that pirate LEGO characters have been stranded on an island for 30 years.

  • Reminds me of one of my favorite sets ever: Shipwreck Hideout — a fort reassembled from the parts of wrecked ship. I like both of these for their meta-ness — they know they’re LEGO sets.

emojitracker, realtime emoji use on Twitter

Dua Lipa: Don’t Start Now — Extended (Live in LA)

  • I will always choose the extended-instrumental-interlude version of a song.

Descript, transcription-oriented audio/video editor


The school is promoting our ‘remote learning’ and asked me to write a blurb about the Specialist perspective: Q: “Why are specialist activities important in this program?” A: “… Our classes allow kids to live parts of their days as athletes and scientists and artists, and that exploration is essential in helping them discover who they are and who they might become.”

Another teacher asked how I was doing with working and living at home, in isolation. Well… 1. professionally, I have years of practice working from home, staring at a computer all day, creating and communicating digitally, and 2. personally, I have a lifetime of practice being solo (most of the time, it’s my preferred mode of existence). So this transition has been seamless for me.

  • I said (and this is true) that it’s easy for me to misunderstand the degree to which, globally, life has changed, because my lifestyle (outside of work) is essentially the same.

How Will the Coronavirus End?

  • “Pandemics can also catalyze social change. People, businesses, and institutions have been remarkably quick to adopt or call for practices that they might once have dragged their heels on, including… fair labor policies and a stable and equal health-care system.”

American Patriotism, Consumerism, and the Virus

  • “[After 9/11,] shopping… became coded as a proud form of American resistance. This phenomenon is distinct from ethical consumption practices or even the ‘Buy American’ campaigns…. It isn’t principled or selective…. There’s no risk. There’s no sacrifice. The lesson the war on terror taught was that doing and buying exactly what we want is sticking a boot in the enemy’s ass.”

  • “American exceptionalism… requires that we believe, even against the testimony of experts and the evidence of our own eyes, that the ‘greatness’ of America is eternal and invulnerable”

Frameworks: Imagine Gold Good™ Great™

  • There’s nothing quite like discovering a new Great™ album. To want to play it again, immediately. To wake up the next day, stoked to listen again. And to know it’s gonna stick with me for years, because these albums always do.


My workdays are just absolutely saturated with communication now (all digital and task-oriented). After a day full of emails and video calls, I’m mentally zonked and so ready to stop communicating — by any means, with anyone.

  • I’m talking to fewer people now than a typical day at school, but I feel more drained with a screen in between. Communicating digitally is harder: 1. meetings and classes are harder because video chats require unlimited patience (for the technology and for the unnatural pace of every conversation), 2. teaching is harder because every bit of information needs to be meticulously organized and crystal clear (to circumvent the layers of confusion and misinterpretation that technology and distance create), 3. answering questions is harder because we’re all on different screens (experiencing/seeing/hearing different versions of the same thing).

  • And so, I need a lot more Joe time after work to refill my social battery.

And also so… I’m accumulating unread messages again. This is not about wanting to talk to friends or not. It’s that messaging digitally feels stressful — and it’s not a thing I turn to when I need to relax. #digitalanxiety

  • Recently, a friend (Katie) was upset with me because I didn’t reply to their texts within a few hours (this has happened before with other people).

  • And this is something I really have trouble with. A text is not like a paper letter. It’s not even like an email. A text arrives with a timer attached — and it’s always ticking, and we don’t have control over when it starts.

  • Just owning a phone at all starts the clock. The phone itself — doing nothing — introduces anxiety. Because at all times, people who text me might (do) wonder: Joe could respond, so why hasn’t he? And for me, I have to think: I wonder if there’s a message waiting…?. Always.

  • On Saturdays, I’d really like to just turn my phone off… but I don’t feel like I can do that because of the worry it inspires.

  • If it was possible to disable the texting part of owning a phone altogether, I would totally try it.

  • This is the idea behind using status icons: it’s about communicating: “Talking would be good!” + “I’m establishing a boundary right now, this is my time, the clock is not ticking”.

Here’s a pattern in the things that make me anxious: ticking clocks (text message replies, video game time limits, and I hate the way the microwave beeps after it’s done, but the door hasn’t been opened yet), inevitable technology failures because of software updates). #anxiety

A thing I have been turning to to relax is New Horizons. It’s anxiety-relieving — my ideal kind of game.

macOS: Advanced Screenshot Keyboard Commands

  • + + + 3/4 = copy to clipboard (instead of saving a file)

  • + + 4 + Space = screenshot a specific window

  • + + 5 = open Screenshot app (with recordings!)


It’s my 5th Journal-versary! #journaling

  • Every day: this site helps me think. Even if I’m often behind in journaling (in expanding my notes for this page into fully-fledged posts for this page), I’m taking those notes every day, and so I’m reflecting every day. And I’m doing that because I want those reflections to eventually find their way here — this place to put the things on my mind.

  • It’s probably the most helpful thing I’ve ever done for myself. And no doubt, I’ve spent more time working on this site than any other project in my life. And I’m so proud of it.

First Technology Office Hours (where kids can drop in to visit any of their Specialists teachers). Today, one of my favorite 4th graders (Ila) Zoomed into mine, and we continued her Beaming Face with Braces proposal — which we’ve been working on since the Emoji unit in the fall, and which she’s serious about actually submitting to Unicode.

  • The goal of that unit was to design a new emoji that represents someone who isn’t represented by the current ones. (She has braces, so this is where that started.) But as we’ve talked about it, the feeling her new emoji captures is positive, confident awkwardness. She wants to base it on Beaming Face with Smiling Eyes and look happier than Grimacing Face (which represents negative awkwardness, aka “cringey”).

  • It’s a super smart, thoughtful idea — and I think there’s a good chance her proposal could go somewhere!

  • The tween-ness of her idea is very fourth grade, and it’s perfect. #classof2028

Font Awesome: COVID-19 Icons

Farnham Headline, chunky, chiseled typeface

Polytype, quirky type foundry

reMarkable 2, paper-esque tablet


Good, either way update: this philosphy has been effective in disconnecting my feelings about myself from the feelings and actions of other people. Which is good, I’m happy about that — the mantra is working! However, a layer that I didn’t anticipate is that I’m starting to feel like the relationships that I have or could have aren’t really that important in the long run. If I’m truly good on my own, then why waste the energy or open the door to being affected by other people at all? And that’s not something that I want to feel, but it is how I am feeling right now.

  • Ashley suggested that maybe this feeling is the pendulum having-swung to its furthest point, and it’ll return to more of a medium place in the future. Which I hope is true. But it’s clear that I’m in the midst of a significant change in my perspective about relationships.


Good, either way update: I think this seed was planted and grew from the thought (that I encountered last year), that the opposite of narcissism is objectivity. #goodeitherway

  • I named my Animal Crossing town Either Way.

macOS: Open Notification Center with a Keyboard Shortcut

  • This is a really nice way to view today’s calendar events and Spotify’s current track!

Cable management is still one of my favorite hobbies. I’m using 3M Command Strips and Monoprice Hook & Loop Tape everywhere!

Miss Americana Good™


It’s the end of our first week of ‘remote learning’, and it was one of my most stressful weeks at CWA yet.

  • Overall, things are going really well, but I’m doing an almost enitrely different job than I was two weeks ago. I did zero things related to teaching technology to 3rd–5th graders. Instead, I was: helping teachers with technical stuff, setting up our Specialist site, attending video meetings, making spreadsheets, sitting in on classes, and answering emails/calls/messages.

  • It was so much. The last three days, I was standing at my desk, dual-monitoring, for 8+ hours. Feeling so anxious that I barely made time for breakfast, lunch, or a break (and I’m working 10 feet away from my kitchen, and 2 feet from my couch now).

  • Communicating digitally is anxiety-inducing for me: 1. it’s harder to get at what I mean to say, 2. it takes three times longer to say it, 3. there are unlimited channels to say it through (in this case: Gmail, GChat, Zoom video, Zoom chat, texts, phone calls), each of which can’t be missed.

  • I am exhausted. And yet, it all feels weightless — virtually (literally) like none of it happened at all. #realness

Whenever I explain Animal Crossing to people who haven’t played it before, it sounds totally ridiculous.

  • Me: “So… you live in a village with cartoon animals, and talk to them, and you can decorate your house.” / Them: “· · · · · 

Vox: How Robot Writers Could Change The Internet

Tiny House: Minimalist, All-Plywood-Interior, with an elevated-ceiling, skylight, tons of space, lots of windows (184 ft²)

  • I would absolutely live here. I own few enough things now that I could move into a place this size today.

  • It continues to feel likely that I’ll be living in tiny house some day. Why? 1. The older I get, the more time I spend on my own (and the more I want to), and I’m feeling ready to start planning for being single for good. 2. As much as I enjoy my job, I absolutely want to stop working sooner than later. And I probably won’t have enough saved to be renting in retirement. 3. I don’t need much space to live comfortably. 4. A full-size house would be too much for me to handle mentally. But I feel confident that I could understand a tiny house top to bottom enough to truly care for it.

Austin Kleon: Make a Little Book From One Sheet of Paper


This week, I’ve heard people mention feeling ‘bored’ staying at home. I have no idea what it feels like to be bored. I have the opposite problem: there’s no limit to the amount of unscheduled time I could fill with creative challenges or reading/watching creatively-stimulating things. No limit.

Op-Art Hand Drawing: example 1 + example 2

Firefox: Permanent Containers + Temporary Containers, isolate cookies from each other in every tab

  • How to Configure Containers

  • “If you browse the internet in default Tabs or in a specific Container you still collect Cookies, Storage and Cache in one place — which is something advertisers and other data-collecting services really appreciate — it makes tracking you easy.”


Feedback from an administrator (Nick) about building our Specialist website (and a response to me saying that I’m not interested in admin) “One thought for you: Your work here is what true leadership looks like. You put structure to a complex problem and provided a solution for families that I think will work well. You are a leader.”

Milosh: Jetlag Instrumentals Good™

  • A big chunk (50%, maybe?) of the music I listen to now is instrumental — mostly electronic.

  • I haven’t ever anticipated growing into enjoying Classical music (and that’s still, absolutely, true). However, I did anticipate being someone who would never lose interest in the latest pop music, and that is changing. I’m somewhere between.

Simplify, Gmail simplifier

  • Also, now that I’m working from home every day and using work email (Gmail) a lot more, I’m back into Mailplane.


Quarantine is a personal communication hell — a place where people communicate mostly through email and video conferencing.

  • This feeling is indicative of a bigger problem my life: that digitally-mediated conversations don’t feel real to me. When I think back on video calls, texts, and emails, I don’t remember them as particularly meaningful, heartfelt experiences. {#digitalnxiety} #realness

  • It’s a big reason why I don’t reach out to people more often. If digital conversations don’t end up feeling real in the end: why bother?

  • So why not call? Because I feel like I’m breaking (what has become) the new social rule: that no one calls.

Coda, collaborative docs with a website-y feel

  • We’re using this for — where us Specialist teachers are posting activities/lessons for kids while they’re ‘remote’ learning.


Faculty Zoom training (preparing to teach remotely). I’m noticing (based on teachers’ confusion and difficulty today in learning this new tool) that there’s a really sad irony when comparing: 1. the rhetoric that technology is supposed to make our lives easier, simpler, better and 2. the reality that technology is often multiple times more complex than the thing it’s replacing. #digitalanxiety


Rewatched Mission: Impossible – Fallout Great™ #40

  • This movie could not possibly be improved.

  • Vanessa Kirby, forever.


Yesterday was our last day of school on campus until May. If anyone is prepared to spend the next six weeks at home in isolation and be totally fine… it’s me.

Tick Tock: A Tale for Two Good™

  • One of the reasons I bought a Switch was to connect more with Omaha friends, and it’s been great for that.

The Pudding: It Doesn’t Actually Rain That Much in Seattle, so where does its rainy reputation come from?

  • “In 2019, it rained more in Omaha than in Seattle (43” vs. 31”). And Seattle had only a few more days with precipitation (112 vs. 94).”


Good, either way update: I’m applying this daily, and it’s been helpful in lots of times and places. An important factor has been recognizing that this philosphy is not as simple as not-caring. (I still care what people think, I still hope for certain things to happen — and I want to care and hope.) But whether the outcome is the one I’d hoped for or not (either way): I’m still satisfied. I still did the part I was responsible for, and that’s all that matters (or should matter) to me.

Bought an 8BitDo GameCube-to-Switch/Mac Controller Adapter.

The Take: Home Alone’s Secret Meaning – Adulthood Sucks

  • “the moral is that a healthy adulthood isn’t just about being on your own. Being home alone isn’t that much fun if you’re isolated from the people you care about.”


Conversation with (Alex) another middle schooler in Coding & Robotics: What could you work on? “Our robot can accomplish the mission.” [It did, in the most basic possible way.] Can you improve it? “Why though?” Wait, I’m confused. I thought you liked building robots? “I like coding.” [Half of building a robot is coding.] Could you improve the code of your robot? “[Smiles.] I see what you’re doing, Mr. Sparano.”

  • A fair description of teaching middle school (at least, the kids that’ve been in my four sections of Coding & Robotics) is managing inertia.

  • As the teacher, it can be really hard to feel successful. It’s just like: dude, you’re not even motivated to do something you like doing!


I’m in the midst of two straight-up graphic design units at school (Little Free Library icons in 4th grade, and classroom culture infographics in 5th grade). Like last year’s bike rack, all my professional worlds are colliding — graphic designer, teaching it, and teaching technology.

  • Today in 5th grade, I showed my Barcamp t-shirt and the sketches, as an example of: 1. how my favorite idea wasn’t my first idea, and 2. sketching strategies (keep it small, quick, organized, and make notes for yourself).

  • And then a room of 10 year-olds sketched their own ideas (for infographics)… looking at a thing I made seven years ago — having left Oxide a year earlier, teaching and freelancing part-time, having decided my future was in the classroom. Pretty cool.

Voxelgram Not Great™


Another moment of clarity about classroom management: as a Specialist teacher, I have less leverage with students. I’m not grading them, I’m not responsible for them, I’m not in regular communciation with their families. Although students’ behavior can feel disrespectful at times, they’re really just responding naturally and unconsciously to the fact that, really: what can I (or any Specialist teacher) do about it? #management


My lesson-planning takes longer than it should (≈ 2 hours for a 1-hour lesson). I’m constantly running out of time to plan… while I also don’t think I should spend more time than I already am. But planning for technology lessons can be especially time-consuming because the tools I’m using are constantly changing/breaking in the background. Before teaching a lesson, I have to: 1. double-check every step of the process to make sure it still works since I last checked, 2. confirm that it works on students’ devices (which are different than mine), and 3. familiarize myself with both the teacher and student interfaces (for the tools that have both). These kinds of worries aren’t present with more analog kinds of teaching (teaching with books, worksheets, anything physical and offline) — which can’t change or break. #teaching #digitalanxiety


Honey Boy Good™


Thinking back to my website/server project and about how (pretty sure) I feel most exhilarated and satisfied about life when I’m absolutely immersed in a big, self-initiated, creative challenge. That’s felt true for as long as I can remember.

  • This project is also an example of something I maybe wouldn’t be able to do if I had more obligations in my life (and more demands on my time and attention). If I didn’t have complete control over my free time, I would miss having these kinds of opportunities — and that’s worth appreciating. #goodeitherway

Video Game Emulation, the Law, and You

  • “it’s squarely preservation (not piracy) to make ROMs of otherwise unplayable games available online.”

Baba Is You Not Great™

  • I expected to love this game, but I can’t really wrap my head around the puzzles. I do admire the system, though — it’s brilliant.

  • Game Maker’s Toolkit: How Baba Is You Works

  • “its puzzles are largely defined by what you can’t do. Because — while making an open ended puzzle game sounds great — it’s open to easy answers…. So the designer’s job is actually to lock you in and force restrictions on you… [to] lock off easy answers — and force you to find the clever trick at the heart of the puzzle.”

  • Teaching is all about constraints: starting from what I want students to learn and then locking them into that path with restrictions that push them in the right direction — while still allowing plenty of room for creativity and choices. It’s hard to do well, and I think I’m pretty good at it. #teaching


Vox: Why New Diseases Keep Appearing in China

Japan Day in the Life Series

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil Not Great™


Subscribed to Nintendo Force Magazine.

  • I subscribed to Nintendo Power for 10 years as a kid, and I loved it.

  • I’ve been a Nintendo fan since the moment it was possible to be one (1986?). Recently, a friend (Matt) noticed that within our circles of friends, most of the people who play video games play on Nintendo consoles (instead of PlayStation/Xbox). And, also, those same people prefer Mac (over PC). That’s totally true and super interesting! I don’t have many (any?) good friends on the PlayStation/PC side.

  • Internet Archive: Nintendo Power collection

Pop-Tarts®: Pretzel Cinnamon Sugar Not Great™

macOS: Toggle Dark Mode Applescript

Watched the last of The Take’s Mad Men video essays:

  • Pete Campbell – Everyman

  • “Pete’s flaws can’t be romanticized, because they’re not masked by flawless good looks, creative genius, or charisma. Don’s tortured persona is alluring; while Pete’s misery just comes across as pathetic.”

  • Joan Holloway – Subversive Venus

  • “In many ways, Joan is Don’s feminine counterpart. She is similarly carnal, confident, desirable and shrewd — but these qualities do not always work for her as they do for Don.”

  • The Many Loves of Don Draper

  • “There are the mistresses who let him express a side of himself he usually keeps hidden, the wives who show us how he wants his life to appear, and the platonic loves who mean more to him than a lot of romances combined.”

  • “the show points out that the person you connect with most in an authentic way — or the one who moves your heart most deeply — sadly may not feature for much screen-time in your life.”

  • Mad Men’s Ending

  • “The show is based on the premise that advertising does not make you want to do anything.… It reminds you to do what you already want to do. It is a mirror.” ⇠ Matthew Weiner

  • “At times, Don may seem like a hypocrite, but really he is his own customer. He’s searching for happiness and fulfillment just like everyone else.”


Good, either way update: I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships this year (teaching, working, family, friends, dating) this year, and there are a few big ideas that are sticking with me — and seem truer now (in middle age) than ever: 1. everyone is ultimately on their own, 2. no one is really looking out for anyone else… because they’re always going to choose themselves first, 3. relationships are mostly situational and transactional, that 4. will likely either slowly dissolve, or change on a dime into nothing at all. #goodeitherway

  • These are a little dark, but it’s been helpful — in calibrating expectations, in relying less on the opinions of other people to feel satisfied — to take them to heart. My satisfaction, my happiness, my outlook, my life’s trajectory, are — entirely — up to me. And it’s better to know that.

  • Where does this come from? 1. the inevitable souring of every romantic relationship (and the torture of self-confidence that is digital dating), 2. having been away from Omaha for over 5 years and seeing those relationships naturally fade, 3. and similarly, seeing the relationships I’ve built with kids at school wither as they get older, 4. the ways that social media and personal branding are changing our culture and transforming people into self-centered, angry, bullshitters, and 5. the ongoing difficulty of finding and making real friends (or even having genuine conversations, day-to-day) in the PNW. #relationships

Firefox: History Cleaner, delete history after × days

Nathan For You4: The Anecdote


Pebble: Compass app

Burnt Toast: Social Media series — Rise and Shine


PICO-8: Space Shooter Tutorial

Tetris 99: How to T-Spin

There are few (if any) things I dread more than a long phone call.

Chips Ahoy!: S’mores Good™

Creative challenges February


Poolside FM, feel-good radio (with a 90s Mac interface)

Invisible Man Good™

The Markup: Gmail’s Algorithm Controls Which Political Emails Land in Your Main Inbox (And Which Don’t)


Bitsy: Maintenance Mode, maintenance robot game

The Markup, technology reporting and investigations


I’m realizing that 5th graders make noticeably less eye contact than younger students. It’s a tell (evidently) of puberty and becoming more self-conscious. #growingup

When I’m in Seattle now, I wonder how I ever thought it was the place for me. As much as I like the idea of living in a dense metropolis, I’m not sure I ever actually felt comfortable living there. And visiting now just brings that to light. And not because I’m choosing to think about this — but because the uncomfortableness creeps up on me while I’m there.

  • It’s taken me awhile to identify why, but I’ve figured it out. Conversations in Seattle are driven by utility: Are you useful to me? and/or What do you want from me?.

  • I really do feel comfortable in Tacoma. Even though I want to be more connected to more people, it at least feels possible to connect.


Eminem “I’m not a commodity, I’m an oddity.”

Garbage Language: Why Corporations Speak the Way They Do

  • “the hideous nature of these words — their facility to warp and impede communication — is also their purpose.”

  • “When we adopt words that… simultaneously fold us into an institutional organism and insist on that institution’s worthiness — it is easier to pretend that our jobs are more interesting than they seem.”

  • garbage language: “words with a scammy flavor.” #bs

  • “Language is always a matter of intention. No two people could have less in common than when they are saying the same thing, one sincerely and one with snark.”

  • Another reason I like teaching (especially in a private school) is that (mostly) I don’t have to deal with corporate bullshit. I’m highly allergic to phoniness, condescension, hierarchy, unnecessary complexity, salesmanship. And I’m losing tolerance as I get older. I wouldn’t last a day in a businessy business.

  • autological: “a word that expresses a property that it also possesses (e.g. the word ‘short’ is short, ‘noun’ is a noun, ‘English’ is English, ‘pentasyllabic’ has five syllables, ‘word’ is a word).”

  • FUAY garbage language.

Real Life Magazine: Selfish Intimacy

  • “Shaping your own image is mitigating when you feel vulnerable, a way to send out a decoy in your place.”

  • “Relationships are subject to their own, encrypted terms; to air them publicly is to submit them for outside judgment, and risk letting something delicate and conditional wilt in the light.”

  • “Instagram, or any platform for self-broadcast, materializes a tension in the overlap of any two lives:… you will make and remake yourselves at the other’s expense, repackaging that closeness as much to dismantle as to express it. ”

  • If/when I date again, I really hope she’s not into Instagram. I’ve women who were pretty serious about maintaining their accounts, and it created distance. It’s weird as hell feeling like the better parts of your relationship can/will also be leveraged as content for a personal brand.


Termius, iOS SSH app

Conversation with (Cole) a middle schooler in Coding & Robotics: “Making Snake on micro:bit was so boring.” / But that’s what you chose to make. You could’ve chosen to code anything you wanted, in any language, on any device — why didn’t you choose something else? / “Because I didn’t know what I wanted.”

  • And this is after he generated a list of project ideas and I suggested a few coding tools based on his list — none of which were Snake or micro:bit.

  • It’s been difficult to overcome the inertia, pessimism, and ironic detachment of a few students this quarter. It’s saturating the class, and it’s weighing on me.

Stranger at Whole Foods: “You’re a really good salad maker.” Yes I am.


Rewatched two rom-coms: (Definitely, Maybe Great™ Good™ and Sleepless in Seattle Great™ Good™)

  • Still really enjoyable movies, but they don’t resonate with potential like they did when I was in my 20s. #40

  • Isla Fisher, forever.

I used this analogy with friends~~ (Jeremy and Ketan)~~, and I think it holds up: “You know how, in Mario Kart, Donkey Kong is super strong, but he drives slowly? And how Mario is pretty good at everything, but not particularly good at anything? Life is full of trade-offs like that. No one has it all.”

r/Shortcuts, Apple Shortcuts tips

PICO-8: 1-Bit Raindrops #tweetcart

PICO-8: #tweetcart Tutorials

Dreamcast VMU + Pi Retro Gaming Handheld + video

Tom Thumb + .ttf, 3×5 pixel typeface #pixels


Figured out a thing I’ve been wondering for awhile: can I sync this site’s files to the server directly through Dropbox?… Yes!

  • There are a few advantages to this: 1. changes appear instantly (including the new DND icon), 2. it’s simpler (I was using my Mac + Hazel + FTP, so my laptop needed to be on for changes to upload), and 3. it’s more reliable (digital technology is unreliable, and layers of technology multiply unreliability exponentially, so less technology is always better).

  • This was a big, fun creative challenge. I learned a ton about Linux and set everything up entirely through the command line. I spent the last three days on this project, and I was hyped to get home from work to keep at it — 15+ hours of hacking the Matrix. #coding

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Trailer #2 + Official site

  • Holy shit, this looks amazing — like the ultimate Animal Crossing. The new features (crafting, Nook Phone, terraforming), the old features (custom patterns, collecting, weird animals, seasonal events, letters), the UI (typefaces, icons). This is bringing back so many memories. I nearly cried. I cannot wait.

  • Oh, dang… how about an Animal Crossing Club at school (for visiting each others’ islands)?! Doing it.

Linux: Getting Started with Your Virtual Private Server (VPS)

Whereby, web-based video calls + screen-sharing


macOS: Fix “The application can’t be opened” error


I’ve had a moment of clarity about classroom management. At CWA, teachers expect kids to talk during class, and they find ways to work around/with students’ chattiness. Based on the industry advice I’ve been learning from (especially from Teach Like a Champion and Cult of Pedagogy), I’ve been assuming that my students would/could/should collectively stop talking as a sign of a well-managed class. But (at CWA, at least) I don’t think that’s realistic — I’ve been fighting against the culture of the school. Which is maybe the big reason management been so difficult and frustrating for me so far. #management

  • Instead, I need to shift my expectations about quiet and interruptions (which, again, is against industry best practices). My latest strategy is to compel students to listen through the lesson itself — for their engagement to drive their listening. Which seems obvious, but it’s what my co-workers are doing, and I’m really focusing on that now.


In MS Coding & Robotics, I mentioned that I played Switch all weekend (NBA 2K Playgrounds 2, Tetris 99, Florence). And the whole room was like, “Wait… what?” (like adults don’t play video games). And instantly the vibe lifted.

  • It’s felt precarious lately. This particular group of students has been especially complainy and less respectful (to me, and of the class itself) than usual. One student (who’s new to CWA) has changed the whole dynamic.

  • But there’s always been so much complaining in these middle school classes. Another teacher (Dylan) suggested recently that, with middle schoolers, maybe the complaining is the point of complaining. They just want to be heard expressing their opinions. Which makes a lot of sense. Because they can be so difficult to please or satisfy.

  • Managing middle schoolers is easier in some ways (they can be less talkative, and they’re less excitable), but more complex in others (countering negativity, dismissiveness, disrespect), and there are clearly additional layers of management skills I need to learn. #management


Made iOS Shortcuts that: 1. toggle my phone’s Do Not Disturb mode, 2. update a Status page on this site (helped by Dropbox and Hazel), and then 3. (through Javascript) add an icon to About: <span class=“status away” style=“padding-right:0; margin-left:0;">• or <span class=“status here” style=“padding-right:0; margin-left:0;">• .

  • Why? To see if I could — the challenge of figuring it out. Coding… man, it’s so fun! #coding

  • But also because I’m finding myself really appreciating time away from messages lately, again. (I’m at the end of a four day weekend, and I’ve spent half of it in either DND or Airplane modes.) Texts and emails continue to cause me anxiety, and it’s a relief (like, I actually feel mentally lighter) to know the chime isn’t looming. #digitalanxiety

  • Is it good for me or helpful for my friendships to disappear for such a long time? Probably not.

  • jQuery: .addClass /.removeClass, change classes dynamically.

  • It’s also a prototype of an idea I’ve had in the back of my mind for awhile: integrating online/away icons into our phone’s contacts app, so we might have a way of knowing if now is a good time to call. Because we’re always connected, and it’s hard to know if this is a good time… and so people almost never call (including me).

Fleabag2 Good™


Is Technology Democratic?

  • “It is not merely the case that there is a belief that there must be a high-tech solution to every problem, but rather that things that were working just fine without high-tech solutions come to be seen as problems insofar as they are allowed to operate outside the sphere of high-tech control.”

  • “there is something much more democratic about simple tools like pens and paper and telephone calls that can easily be checked and verified.”

Tetris 99 Good™

  • Damn, this is such a clever idea! It’s a prime example of how remixing works, where two existing ideas (Tetris + Fortnite) are intentionally combined to create something that — although its parts aren’t new — the combination absolutely is.


Deku Deals, Nintendo Switch price tracking

I’ve done three game design projects over the last year at CWA (micro:bits, Bitsy, PICO-8) in different classes, and they’ve been really fun. (They’ve been a little more frustrating for students than I’d hoped, and I still have a lot to figure out about teaching through games. But I can see there’s ton of potential in games as medium.)

  • Why game design? It’s 1. an incredible combo of logic (coding, problem-solving, system-building) and creativity (illustration, music, story-telling), 2. a rare medium with a low floor and a high ceiling (technically and artistically), 3. kids are drawn to games and naturally invested in game-making, 4. games are super interesting to me, and really fun to teach.

More tools for teaching game design and coding:

  • SCRIPT-8, web-based, with immediate feedback

  • TIC-80, web-based, similar to PICO-8

  • Pix64, create games just by drawing images

  •, web-based coding/hosting

Florence Good™

  • Ken Wong, illustrator

  • Illustration and visual style are a big part of why I enjoy playing games — what I would’ve called as a kid “the graphics!”. And the opposite is true — even if a game sounds good on paper, I won’t play it if I’m not into the way it looks.

  • Itim, hand-written sans typeface


This Column Will Change Your Life: Are You Living Too Much in the Future at the Expense of Now? #design

  • “The problem with treating every year (or week, or hour) as something you’re supposed to put to use is that you end up living permanently focused on the future.”

  • “The more strenuously you try to get something out of life, the more emotionally invested you become in reaching the point at which you’ve succeeded in doing so — which is, necessarily, never now. In other words: try too hard to make life meaningful, and it becomes impossible to derive any meaning from your present-moment life.” #goodeitherway

  • “The ‘purposive’ person is always trying to secure a spurious and delusive immortality for their acts by pushing their interest in them forward into time.” John Maynard Keynes

Miniature Not Great™

2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Aaron Gordon vs. Derrick Jones Jr.


When I’m teaching a lesson that requires kids to generate concepts/ideas, I tend to forget that that’s actually really hard (and so, I don’t allow enough time for it and don’t scaffold that step enough to help kids come up with ideas). #teaching

  • Because, frankly, thinking/concepting have never been hard for me. I enjoy it so much, I really do forget that it can be frustrating and scary for lots of people.

Gaming Historian: Super Mario Bros. 3

  • In 1989 (pretty sure), mom and I took a vacation to Kansas City, and I played SMB3 on a PlayChoice-10 arcade machine at the Holiday Inn where we stayed, before the game was released on the NES.

  • When the game was finally released, I remember thinking the packaging (the thick-line Mario illustration, the chunky typography, and the dramatic yellow background) was so beautiful — probably one of my earliest memories of noticing and appreciating graphic design.

Pop-Tarts®: Cookies & Creme Not Great™


Mad Men7 Good™ #40

  • I love the Accutron Pitch scene.

  • “I’m so many people.” ⇠ 7×02

  • “Computers don’t think — people do.” ⇠ 7×03

  • “Well, I try to treat [advertising] like art, even though it’s just selling something. / All art is selling something. / No… we’re actually selling something.” ⇠ 7×09

  • “This is supposed to be about my job, not the meaning of life. / So you think those things are unrelated?” ⇠ 7×10

  • Four years ago, I considered writing off the job chunk of my life completely and doing something I (purposefully) wasn’t invested in. But there’s no denying (now) that my job gives me a tremendous amount of purpose and satisfaction. #teaching

  • “Everybody has problems. Some people can deal with them and some people can’t.” ⇠ 7×10

  • “you may not want to listen to this, but you are like your mother and me.” ⇠ 7×10

  • “I always worried about you because you march to the beat of your own drum. But now I know that’s good.” ⇠ 7×13

  • “It’s the real thing. What the world wants today.” ⇠ 7×14

  • Not just the Great™est show of all time, hands-down. But one of my favorite things — period. I can’t get enough. Every scene is art. Every line is poetry. I just love it, so much.

  • Trudy Campbell, forever.


Had a meeting today with a senior administrator (Matt) about my job next year. I like my job, a lot. But there’s uncertainty (and skepticism, frankly) about the future of my position. And anyway, in the back of my mind, I keep wondering if I could engineer a job that might fit me even better. A vision is crystallizing, and I’m stoked about the potential: creative technology workshops for elementary/middle schoolers. #thenextphase

  • I’d teach the workshops, either on my own or partnered with an organization. Workshops could be at an event space, or I could visit schools. They’d run a few days/week for a few weeks, or once/week for a few months (either way, projects would span multiple sessions). And in small groups, or as individual tutoring.

  • Example tools: PICO-8, Bitsy, Scratch, sok-stories, micro:bits, podcasting/radio, stop-motion LEGO animation (things I’ve essentially already been prototyping at school with Coding & Robotics and dDl).

  • The lessons wouldn’t be about technology, necessarily. Instead, the lessons would be in the process: 1. learning to be intentional (designing, setting goals), 2. learning about yourself and the world through making the thing you’re making (particularly feedback and prototyping), 3. an emphasis on communicating thoughts and feelings, while 4. the technology is just the practical skill and the medium that makes projects fun and interesting for kids. #learningthroughdesign

  • Potential names: Learning Through Design or Digital Design Lab.

  • It’d be a career evolution — a combination of the best parts of my professional life so far: 1. CWA = teaching technology (game design, coding, robotics) + working with schools and younger kids (who are just discovering their creative interests and are really fun to work with). 2. Grad school = media literacy. 3. Undergrad graphic design = diving deep into big, open-ended, creative problem-solving projects + projects that are more process-driven (more intentional, more concepting, more feedback, more iterations) + making stuff to communicate thoughts and feelings + less time preparing individual lessons and more time just teaching lessons that grow organically out of what students are making. 4. Graphic design freelancing = a flexible schedule + dictating my own stress by being my own boss + working less, but with + a pretty good dollars-to-donuts ratio.

  • And since this project would push me out into more places, it could be the thing that just might… maybe get me connected to a bigger creative community that I miss so much.

It’s not happiness I’m interested in, exactly. It’s satisfaction — to feel satisfied by where I’m at, what I’ve made, what I’ve decided to do.

  • Had a conversation with a friend (Joanna) about why we feel compelled to create things that are impractical. (I used this site as an example, where I can wake up on a Saturday, like I did last weekend, work on coding something or other, and spend hours doing it — just for me). The satisfaction I’m taking about — of creating something from nothing, that matches what’s in my head — is one of the best feelings there is.

  • That satisfaction is the same as when I’ve written something on this page that captures the thoughts and feelings on my mind.

  • That (lack of) satisfaction is why graphic design was such a tough gig for me. I rarely got to feel satisfied with what I’d poured my heart into — which was often either watered down by the client (and not the work I’d envisioned) or rejected (what I’d envisioned, but D.O.A.).

Sketchpad, web-based image editing tool (kid-friendly Photoshop/Illustrator)

Kemerling “we want [our tombstone] to say ‘actually gave a shit, and it showed.’”

Kesha: High Road Good™


Pan-Pan Not Great™


Bought an 8-Bit Deck, pixel art playing cards. #pixels

Javascript: Countdown Timer

Pain and Glory Not Great™

  • Arthouse/indie movies often feel contrived to me. It’s difficult to describe how, but I tend not to buy how people… are, and they tend to feel goofy and unrealistic. So the pivotal story moments often don’t feel earned, and the emotional moments usually don’t resonate.

  • “I wrote it to forget it”

EverOut, Seattle/Tacoma events calendar


In MS Coding & Robotics, I’m trying an independent study format for the first time, where students choose a coding language to learn themselves (via tutorials) and the project they’ll make with it. (Many students are taking this class for the 3rd/4th time, and I was hoping the flexibility would be exciting.)

  • But it’s been, unexpectedly, trying. I don’t think kids actually like choices (despite their complaints around requirements). Several of them: 1. resisted considering more than one project idea, 2. didn’t follow through on the first idea they had anyway, 3. have disturbingly little ambition for the project they did choose (two are just coding Snake as-is), and 4. are still complaining anyway, about so many things. It’s like: what do you want?

Retrospective of Groundbreaking Internet Videos

Vox: Filming Techniques Used to Hide Cuts in ‘One-Shots’


Escape: The Curse of the Temple, 10-minute, collaborative, modular board/dice game

  • I love modular board games (and procedural video games), conceptually. Games where the experience changes each time, but the parts are the same. For me, it’s about the design of the system — having engineered a living, breathing, machine that no one, really, controls.

Entered the latest drawing contest hosted by 4th grade (mostly, Patrick) — the theme this time was Underwater Creature.

  • These contests are taking me back. I drew constantly as a kid (usually goofy/ironic cartoons, just like this one). I rarely draw anymore, and I miss this feeling — of having made something by hand, in the real world.

  • I tend to draw in either flat 2D or an unintentional 2D/3D combo because I’ve never fully grasped how to draw dimensionally.

  • Part of the fun of drawing is starting without knowing how things are going to play out — improvising around limitations and opportunities as they happen (including my own limitations as an artist): 1. I added the worm and “NO FISHING” sign because there was space to fill, and 2. I can’t draw hands to save my life, so the scuba diver is holding two things (the soda wasn’t planned, but I like it).


4th grader (Ayla) “Mr. Sparano, can I give you a hug? I’m just so happy!”

  • This had nothing to do with me. Working with kids: there’s no job like it.

Bought Colorblock Square Throw Pillows (Neutral).


macOS: + + click = Force folders in the Dock to open in Finder

CSS: prefers-color-scheme (dark)

  • Added a responsive dark mode to this site.

AoM: How to Find Your Calling in Life

  • “the great sacrilege in terms of the soul’s integrity is… inadvertence…. Not being alert, not being awake, bumbling along and stumbling along through your life” ⇠ Joseph Campbell #design

  • religion: “to reconnect; religare (as in ligaments) means to re-bond… reconnecting you to your… deepest self, your truest self.”

  • “the whole point of [being self-reflective] is essentially to strike up a conversation with [yourself] ongoingly…. In other words, a call is something you hear, so you need to find ways of hearing it.” #journaling

  • “where is there friction in your life? Where does head argue with heart?… in the natural world, friction happens where changes are taking place.… what are the changes that are trying to happen or trying to come through?”

  • “You’d be better off in life if you quit focusing on failure or success. Life is just an experiment — it’s just results.”


The Book of Life: Reasons Not to Worry What the Neighbors Think #goodeitherway

  • “the neighbor might simply be — on a range of key questions, and where it really counts — a total idiot.”

  • “we want them to like or even love us. We want them as our friends. We want their respect and concern.… [But] However obedient we might be, the neighbor will be eminently ready to abandon us and turn the other way if ever we ran into difficulties.”

  • “What we don’t require is a whole village to offer us its tepid and wavering good cheer. We need — at most — three fantastic friends of the kind who’d take a bullet and fight hard to get us out of prison.”

Manifest, in-browser, sticky note grid

Google Maps Hacking


This Is Not A Conspiracy Theory: #6 + #7 #design

  • “What happens in [Conway’s] Game of Life is fascinating because it is truly unpredictable… even though the rules are so simple.… the only way to truly know what will happen is to keep playing the game.”

  • Game of Life Simulators: web-based + PICO-8

  • “The Game can also… convey the somewhat counter-intuitive notion that design and organization can spontaneously emerge in the absence of a designer.” Wikipedia

  • emergence: “the elaborate motions of the [system] aren’t defined by the rules, they emerge from the rules.… new qualities that don’t exist in the parts.”

  • “All this is done without a plan. No one is orchestrating everything. Complex systems are created, not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up.”

  • “Society is a complex system, and we are its parts. And the emergent outcomes are cities, economies, cultures, countries. None of these are planned by its participants, they are emergent.”

  • “As everyone starts driving cars, the cars’ rules create emergence — they create a new world. 1. Cars need fuel, so we get gas stations and oil refineries. 2. Cars need even surfaces to drive on, so we get paved roads, highways, freeways. 3. These roads need order, so we get signs, road markings, traffic lights, traffic cops, traffic courts. 4. Cars need to be parked, so we get driveways, parking lots, parking meters. 5. Cars can be damaged or destroyed, so we get car insurance. 6. Cars allow long-distance travel, so we get motels, and diners, and tourist towns.… 7. Cars allow us to live farther away from work, so we get suburbs and shopping malls. 8. Not everyone can afford a car, so we get busses, and taxis, and car rentals.… All of this is the emergent outcome of a new technology.”

  • This is an example of one of my favorite concepts from grad school: that a design (in this case, the car), unleashed into the world, often necessitates other designs as a response. And the question becomes: is the original designer responsible for those later (necessary) designs?

  • “If you want to understand the deepest malfunctions of systems, pay attention to the rules” ⇠ Donella Meadows

  • “You can change. You can stop focusing on villains to blame and instead focus on the system — on the rules and how you respond to them.… We change the rules of the system ourselves, together, from the bottom-up.”

  • “When we look through the lens of complexity, we can cultivate the patience, the calm, and the openness that can help us begin to understand the infinitely multiplying complexity of reality.”

  • From a design perspective, the lessons here are: 1. that conspiracies attribute the design of complex systems to someone — when complex systems can’t be designed, and 2. because the system emerges from its rules, the players have ultimate influence on the system — because the rules are designed by the players (us).

  • Kirby thanked me in the credits! What a guy.

Mad Men6 Good™ #40

  • I love the colors in this season (1968) — saturated greens, browns, and blues.

  • “Those are three different versions of the same idea. If you can’t tell the difference between which part’s the idea and which part’s the execution of the idea: you’re of no use to me.” ⇠ 6×02

  • This show is also about the creative process. That the best ideas emerge from our subconscious. That the difference between O.K. ideas and Great™ ideas is razor thin. That ideas are real things. And that figuring it out can be one of the most satisfying experiences life has to offer.

  • “heaven’s a little morbid. How do you get to heaven? Something terrible has to happen.” ⇠ 6×02

  • “It’s all about what it looks like, isn’t it?” ⇠ 6×03

  • “Everybody likes to go to the movies when they’re sad.” ⇠ 6×05

  • “The future is something you haven’t even thought of yet.” ⇠ 6×06

  • “The difference is that he’s interested in the idea, and you’re interested in your idea.” ⇠ 6×09

  • “the job of your life is to know yourself.” ⇠ 6×10

Old Man’s Journey Good™

I’m good, either way. January


UW Design Portfolio Review. My first review in awhile, and likely my last ever.

  • When I was teaching graphic design, students wanted professional advice and mentorship from me. But now, my students don’t see me in that light (they aren’t old enough to be thinking about jobs and don’t necessarilly see my job as a goal they’re working towards). Do I miss that? I’m not sure.

A Junior Kindergartner (4 year-old) “I have a Frozen 1 bike”, which is adorable, but feels painfully corporate to me. Why does a little kid know which of the two movies their bike is branded? It’s too soon to be marketed to.


(Carter) 5th grader: “Mr. Sparano, what would you do if you had a minute to live?” I’d eat the biggest cookie or bowl of ice cream I could find.

Paper Mechatronics, paper machine tutorials


Dating apps: that’s some depressing shit. It flattens the process of ‘meeting’ someone into nearly nothing of actual value. And digitizes the humanity out of the whole thing. #digitalanxiety #relationships

  • It isn’t real. And it feels absurd. So why am I using these apps? (I’ve been using Coffee Meets Bagel for two weeks. And I had a really similar experience with Bumble in November.) Because… I feel stuck.

  • The apps are a nightmare mirror world where the worst way to interact with people (digitally, through social media) is my best option. Where a process that should be confidence-creating is just draining it away. Where trying to connect feels alienating. Where the thing that I’m here to find just seems further away.

  • This is the darkest timeline. The apps aren’t for me. It’s gonna happen in the real world, or it’s not gonna happen. Delete.


Frank Chimero: Gardening vs. Architecture

  • gardener: “good things grow, and an important quality of growth is that the significant moments are often unanticipated.” vs. architect: “puts stock in planning and foresight… divisions and subdivisions, then subdivisions of the subdivisions.”

  • I think about this a lot with teaching, and I really do embrace both styles. I have a learning goal for each lesson, and I lesson-plan pretty seriously beforehand [architect]. But many of my best lesson ideas grow out of things kids say or ask, or do or don’t do, or get or don’t get — in the moment I’m teaching it (things I didn’t plan for). So I make changes, and a better lesson emerges (either right then, or for next time) [gardener]. #teaching

  • I’m always ready to improvise. The learning goal is fixed [architect], but I expect that new ideas about how to reach that goal will occur to me in the midst of the lesson [gardener]. Teaching it is the way to understand how to teach it. And that’s the best way. #iter8ordie

  • One of the cautionary tales with this is Lost. The writers planted elements in the beginning (Smoke Monster, polar bear, numbers) that they expected (I imagine) would grow into meaningful concepts later in the writers room… which didn’t happen. So instead, the resolution to those elements in the story felt unsatisfying and ham-fisted. I love the show, I’m not discounting the whole thing. Just saying that those disappointments grew out of gardening gone awry.

The Gentlemen Good™


Comment from my teaching observation (from Francesca) “You seem really comfortable. It didn’t phase you that I was there. You are who you are in the classroom.”

JetBrains Mono, monospace coding typeface

Minimal browser-based instruments

waneella: Bloom #pixels

Bitsy: Dog Life, interactive dog-care tutorial

  • Project idea: students explain a concept or demonstrate something they’ve learned through a simple game (or game-type thing). #project


Securing the attention/respect of a kid (and a room full of them) continues to be one of the hardest and most elusive things I’ve ever tried to do. #teaching

  • This week, I had two moments (one with [Matias] a kindergartner and one with [Nile] a 6th grader), where a kid was doing something they shouldn’t have been, I asked them to stop (clearly and more than once), waited, and… they just continued to do what they were doing.

  • It’s easy for me to dwell and take their (non-)reaction to heart. But anymore, I’m mostly interested in the psychological and power dynamics behind these kids’ choices. They’re kids; I don’t hold it against them. But on some level, their choice not to follow-through does have something to do with me. #goodeitherway

In 5th grade, I’m in the midst of a big micro:bit unit, where students first created Trivia Buttons — a small project (focused on coding inputs and variables) to create a device that will display whether a trivia answer was correct and then count the number of total correct guesses for that question. Which has been fun on its own, but is also a stepping stone to Speed Sensors — a bigger project where they’ll use the same concepts (plus new learning about electrical circuts and wire inputs) to build/code a device that can measure the speed of an object rolling down a ramp.

  • One of the creative challenges in my job is finding ways to connect all of the parts of a unit into a cohesive whole. Ideally, a project will: 1. match learning goals with 2. a project that kids will find fun and interesting/relevant, 3. introduce a new concept each week that builds on last week’s learning, 4. applies the new concepts to evolve the last week’s project to a more interesting place each time, where 5. by the end of the unit, students are able to apply what they’ve learned to create something that they couldn’t have created (or even understood) at the beginning.

  • It’s a model of teaching that I feel like I’m pretty good at! Give me some dots to connect, and I’ll connect them. #teaching

Chrome: Disable Two-finger Swipe Gestures


New nickname: Mr. Spa-new-new. #classof2028


Veronica Mars4 Good™

SUSS: High Line Good™


Spent some time on Twitter, checking in on Omaha friends. As much as I like the idea of social media as a way of being connected, it can feel pretty unnatural. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter claim to “build community” and “bring you closer to the people… you love” through “free expression”. But posts on these platforms are rarely things that people talk about in real life. #socialmedia #realness

  • The things I read today were mostly: 1. hard-line opinions/complaints/arguments (that’d probably be too severe to say in person), 2. self-promotion and marketing (that’d probably be too awkward to say in person), or 3. one-liners, photos, and links engineered for likes (digital content and bullshit — things that there’d probably be little context for in person).

  • I don’t think these kinds of posts are wrong — just that they don’t feel real. How is this bringing us closer?

L.M. Sacasas: Digital Culture Privileges Shamelessness #socialmedia

  • “the content machine is like a blob that eats up more and more of reality.”

  • “In the culture of digital media, the boundaries between home and work blur so that we might be ever more available as a source of labor.… between the home and the commercial sphere… so that we might be ever more available as a source of consumption.… between public and private… so that we might be ever more available as a source of data and content.”

  • “The essence of technology is such that we do not see the forest or the river as it is for-itself, but rather we see each only as potential resources for construction materials or energy production.”

  • “We do not… see other human beings as persons to be respected…. We see them as resources for the content mill.”

  • “suppliers of infinite media must be shameless in… offering up more and more of themselves to the content machine.… [And] we must be shameless in our consumption as well. We must not turn away”

  • “When I tap the heart on some high school kid’s weird video, I feel a flicker of pride, as if I am supporting him in some way. But all I am really doing is demanding more.” 48 Hours in the Strange and Beautiful World of TikTok

63 Up Good™ #40

  • “Your life is as it is (and not how it could be).” ⇠ Simon #goodeitherway

  • “How do you think you’ve changed since you were seven? / One grows so slowly that one never notices.” ⇠ John

  • I would give anything to have this kind of record of my life.

  • “What would you like to be doing in seven years? / There are all kinds of things I’d like to be doing. The question is: what am I likely to be doing?” ⇠ Neil

  • This series is one of the most interesting and important things ever made. Cumulatively, the series is Great™.

Earthquake Bird Not Great™


Mad Men5 Great™ #40

  • “How old are you gonna be? / Forty. So, when you’re forty, how old will I be? / You’ll be dead.” ⇠ 5×01

  • “This is an office. We’re supposed to be friends.” ⇠ 5×04

  • “Only awareness can make reality. / And only what’s real can become a dream. And only from a dream can you wake to the light. / Okey-dokey.” ⇠ 5×06

  • “How could you [treat me that way]? / I don’t know. It was a fight. It’s over. / No. Every time we fight, it just diminishes us a little bit.” ⇠ 5×06 #relationships

  • “I have an announcement to make: it’s going to be a beautiful day.” ⇠ 5×06

  • “at what point should you ever stop trying?” ⇠ 5×07

  • “Why do they [women] get to decide what’s going to happen? / They just do.” ⇠ 5×08

  • “I feel bad for you. / I don’t think about you at all.” ⇠ 5×09

  • “You’ll tell them that it didn’t work out. Because it didn’t. And you’ll tell them the next thing will be better. Because it always is.” ⇠ 5×12

  • “I don’t want to be a partner… I’ve seen what’s involved.” ⇠ 5×12

  • “The client didn’t like it, and we did. In the end, isn’t that how we know it’s good?” ⇠ 5×13

  • I’m so happy I never have to deal with this feeling anymore. As a graphic designer, good work was rejected (or reluctantly approved) so often. As a teacher, if the thing I’ve done is good: it works — every time.

  • “Just knocking out the cobwebs. Someone told me this [going to the movies] works.” ⇠ 5×13

  • “That’s what happens when you help someone — they succeed and move on. / Don’t you want them to?” ⇠ 5×13

  • “… are you alone?” ⇠ 5×13

Rewatched The Social Network Great™ #40

  • Great™est movie, all-time, hands-down. I love so many dimensions of it: it’s my favorite director (David Fincher), favorite musician (Trent Reznor), and favorite writer (Aaron Sorkin) — together!

  • And I love the pacing: the relentless momentum of this movie and movies like it (M:I Fallout, The Dark Knight)) is absolutely key for me.

  • “How did you know that? / It’s on your blog. / Oh yeah.”

  • “The internet’s not written in pencil, Mark. It’s written in ink.”

  • This line pops into my head all the time.

  • “Take the bitter with the better, eh?”

Both/And Lenses — ways of interpreting actions/situations by considering two simultaneously-coexisting perspectives: 1. intent ∞ impact, 2. difference ∞ sameness, 3. individual ∞ group, 4. whole ∞ part, 5. responsible ∞ not my fault, 6. self‑reflection ∞ action, 7. challenge ∞ support


Since taking on the Specialist Cluster Chair position this school year, I’ve had two people recommend the book The Art of Coaching Teams (which I haven’t read, and I’m not passing judgement on here). But I’m feeling a resistance to adopting a position of ‘coach’ of my peers. It implies a hierarchy, where I’m somehow more experienced/knowledgeable/powerful than my peers.

  • I prefer to think of this role as being a liason — representing the Specialists’ interests. I’m resistant to being in management because I’d eventually be forced to represent corporate interests, where the decision-making trends (necessarily) towards being impersonal.

Guess My Word, vocabulary game


In the middle of a lesson, I said (off the cuff), “Design is anything you do on purpose.” Which is maybe the simplest way I’ve ever tried to define design before… and I think it holds up! #design

Pop-Tarts®: Strawberry Milkshake Not Great™


I teach 4th grade on Fridays, but we’ve missed multiple Friday schooldays. So I’ve arranged with the 4th grade teachers to reschedule my classes when that happens from now on. Today, in one of those (rescheduled) classes, I told the students we switched days because 4th grade is my favorite, and don’t want to miss any more time with them. One of the students responded: “Technology is our favorite.” Which just means the world to me. #classof2028

  • This is my third year teaching elementary schoolers, and it’s the third time that: 1. 3rd grade has been the wackiest to teach, 2. 5th grade has been the too coolest for school, and 3. 4th grade has been the absolute best.

  • This year’s 5th graders have been each of those. #classof2027 #growingup

Jack Daniels: Tennessee Honey Whiskey Great™


Bought a Linkstyle Nintendo Switch Simplified Dock.

Tom Day: Fables Good™


Bought the 2019 Pangram Pangram Font Starter Pack.

  • Been looking for a way to support this type designer. I’m using Neue Montreal on this site (which is free), and I absolutely love it.

  • I’m feeling really satisfied with this version of this site, visually. It’s possible that this look could stick around longer than the usual 18 months-ish.

PICO-8: Random Medieval Person Generator

Short Play, short video games blog

  • This is very much where I’m at with video games. My favorites of the last year (The Gardens Between, Minit, Pear Quest, plus tons of PICO-8 and Bitsy games) have all been short and chill.

  • I rarely finish long games, even when I really love them. I’ve never finished Wind Waker, for instance, and it’s still one of my favorite game experiences ever.

  • I’ve always felt anxious playing games that aren’t chill — games with time-limits, boss fights, or that require do-or-die timing and button-presses. #anxiety

1917 Good™

  • “He travels the fastest who travels alone.”

Vox: Teaching in the US vs. The Rest of the World


A theory of the progression of learning: 1. imitation (copying a model), 2. iteration (making variations on a model), 3. innovation/improvisation (making something entirely new that combines multiple models).


I think it’s super annoying when people view conversations as competitions (crazy storytelling battles and joke-offs). I’ll lose every time. Ask a mother fucking question, bro.

Lane 8: Brightest Lights Not Great™


It’s helpful to see teachers who’ve been teaching for 20+ years, who are very very good at their jobs, whom the kids respect… who still get frustrated when kids are doing kid things. #management


Me: “I have an idea.” / (Carie) 5th grade teacher: “I love your ideas.”


Next Meeting, show next calendar event in the menu bar

Bought a Logitech Wireless Keyboard/Trackpad [K600] for school.

  • This allows quick switching between devices, so I can separate professional files (school laptop) from personal files (phone).


How was your break?

  • Holy shit. The day after a school break (every break), everyone asks everyone else this fucking question. All. Day. Long. (I probably answered it 20 times today.) It’s a small talk nightmare.

At our faculty meeting, we played a icebreaker game, where we wrote down one of our earliest jobs and then tried to match them to each other. One teacher said, “Toys R Us?! I’ll bet you hated that!!”. (Which I did not, I loved it.) And it’s sad that I seem like a person (now) would hate working at TRU…

Living Worlds, day-and-night responsive, animated environments #pixels

Frank Chimero: Redesigning


This might just be the theme of my 40th year: I’m good, either way. (Or, at least, I’m working on that being true.) #goodeitherway #40

  • It’s not that I don’t care what other people think. I do care (and I want to care). But no matter what anyone else thinks/feels/says/does: I’m good — because I know I’ll have already made the best decision I could.

  • It’s a philosophy aimed at releasing myself from needing anyone to feel satisfied with who I am, where I’m at, and where I’m going. It’s not anti-social. I’m just talking about true independence, emotionally and pratically. A way of releasing myself from things that I don’t have control over anyway (goals, successes, disappointments, and regrets based on relationships). #relationships

  • This doesn’t sound healthy, exactly… but it doesn’t sound unhealthy either.

  • Experimenting with projector wall art.

Rewatched Beautiful Girls Great™ #40

  • “You’re a dude in flux. You’ve come back [home] to come to some decision about life. A life decision, if you will.”

  • “Scenes from a brand new day.”

  • “You were beautiful.… but… you were as mean as a snake.” #relationships

Bought an iClever Folding Wireless Keyboard [BK08].

  • This is legit. My goal is to make writing/journaling easier away from home, using just my phone.

1Writer: Action Directory

jQuery: .before /.after, add text around elements + .get, load data from other pages.

  • Using this to show the latest article/album/game/movie on About only if they load without errors (otherwise, they don’t show at all).

  • Because, as is always true, technology (in this case, my system for syncing files between my computer and the server) works most of the time, but not always. #digitalanxiety



  • Airports. They give me hope.

  • Trips to Omaha always fill my head with new thoughts. I gain so much perspective — it’s the place where the past meets the present for me. This time, I’m feeling the weight of the five years since the move.

  • Personally, I want a lot to change: 1. I want to feel more connected — to be part of a community of creative people again (which I haven’t had now, for years), 2. I want a family (I really want to be a dad), but… 3. I also want to be 100% OK with neither of those happening (to appreciate the advantages of my life exactly as it is — of being just a dude). #goodeitherway

  • Professionally, though so much has changed: 1. grad school, 2.teaching at UW, 3. retiring from graphic design, and 4. discovering a job — finally — that’s the ideal one for me (teaching kids about technology). That satisfaction is, I think, one of life’s rarest feelings, it’s replaced a deep unknown in my life, and it happened because I opened up my life up completely to change.

  • I don’t know if I want to go back to Nebraska until I get some shit figured out. It’s getting heavy.

Leif Erikson: 21 Grams of Soul Good™

Mad Men4 Great™ #40

  • “the lack of a conference table was deliberate.… a circle of chairs demands a conversation. / … About why there is no table.” ⇠ 4×01

  • “nobody knows what’s wrong with themselves, and everyone else can see it right away.” ⇠ 4×03

  • “I know everything about you. And I still love you.” ⇠ 4×03

  • “Is that what you want? Or is that what people expect of you?” ⇠ 4×03

  • “I can’t believe that guy is married to her.” ⇠ 4×04

  • “[Being awarded] doesn’t make the work any better. / Award or no award, you’re still Don Draper.” ⇠ 4×06

  • “It’s your job! I give you money, you give me ideas. / And you never say thank you. / That’s what the money is for!” ⇠ 4×07

  • This is one of my favorite scenes from this show. For better or worse, a job is an exchange of money for something personal — not just time, but stress, recognition, caring, thought.

  • “Do you ever think about it? / I try not to. But then it comes up out of nowhere.” ⇠ 4×07

  • “People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.” ⇠ 4×08

  • “I like sleeping alone, stretching out like a skydiver, cool patches to roll onto. I should appreciate it more.” ⇠ 4×08

  • I really should.

  • “You want some respect? Go out there and get it for yourself.” ⇠ 4×08

  • “We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.” ⇠ 4×08

  • Another theme of this show is confronting middle age. Something I didn’t think about the first time I watched (10 years ago).

  • “All [a kid] knows of the world is what you show them.” ⇠ 4×08

  • “How do you get them to do what you want them to do? / Aesop has a fable about the wind and the sun. The wind and sun had this competition to see if they could get a traveler’s coat off. So, the wind blows fiercely on him, but the traveler just pulls his coat tighter- But the sun shines down on him, warmer and warmer, and the traveler just takes it off. / And the moral is? / Kindness, gentleness and persuasion win where force fails.” ⇠ 4×08

  • “people can’t stop themselves from buying it. The product that never improves, causes illness, and makes people unhappy. But there was money in it. A lot of money. In fact, our entire business depended on it. €We knew it wasn’t good for us, but we couldn’t stop.” ⇠ 4×12

  • “There is no fresh start. Lives carry on.” ⇠ 4×13

Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker Not Great™


Diana Gordon: Pure Good™

Twix: Cookies & Creme Good™