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Writing and acceleration


May 2, 2013 by Dan

I often think about the concept of acceleration when I’m writing; the way I do things is pretty consistent.

1) Look at what I’ve done recently (say, yesterday). Hate it. Decide to look at something else.
2) Come back to document, change a sentence or two in yesterday’s work to make it slightly less odious. Go look at some other things.
3) Write a sentence or two, then think a bit about what I’m trying to write and where it’s going to go.
4) Finish a paragraph, then go look at something else.
5) Write another paragraph, then another. At this point, I’m pretty much typing, not paying attention to anything else online, in the real world, the person sitting at the table next to me, or anything else. I’m not writing as fast as I can physically type, but I’m doing pretty close. It’s a great feeling – similar to careening down a smooth-roaded hill on a bicycle or feeling the wind in your hair as you go faster in a go-kart.
6) Hit the wall. It’s usually external (have to go to the bathroom, the bus I’m on gets to its destination), but sometimes it’s just…well, I’m done.

I’m averaging about 500 words/day right now, which is not too great – 1000 is a number that makes me feel like I’ve done something with my day. I’m fitting it in on my bus commute when there’s not other work to do, which is an interesting way to get the external wall.

So that’s how I work. And sometimes I include this blog in that work…but sometimes not.

Two ways to start a day


April 25, 2013 by Dan

1) Read Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan. It’s amazing. Best morning ever.

2) Felt a little sting as I put my contact lenses in, realized that they were going to be unwearable today, but only realized that after I was on the bus on the way to work. Now, everything’s blurry. Sigh.

MS Facebook mashup


April 22, 2013 by Dan

It came to my attention the other day that if you use Hotmail, you automatically receive the Facebook profile picture of the person sending you an email, if that person has a FB account.

How is this useful? I think that there is a dividing line (in my head, at least) between informal forms of communication (Facebook) and the more formal (email). It blurs the line a bit, and it just feels weird, and I would like to have some control over this sort of thing. Other than just “delete your Facebook account” – for various reasons I can’t do that these days.



April 15, 2013 by Dan

I started running when I was fifteen, on the high school track team. Twenty-two years later, I still run, and I still run with a team, even though I run alone.

I lace up my shoes at six thirty in the morning, jog through the city gloom to Golden Gate Park and put in the miles. I’m running the San Francisco Marathon this year – my second – and up until today I was a little worried about how it was going to go.

I’m not worried any more. I lived in Boston for four years after college. I watched the end of the Marathon on Boylston, and put in hundreds of miles of roadwork along the Charles River in the snow, the ice, and the summer heat. It was a great running town, a place where people train through the pain of a New England winter for the privilege of running in the greatest race in the world, in front of the largest, best group of running fans anywhere.

I like running alone, sure. But I also nod hi to the other runners that I see early in the mornings as I run in the park. When I used to run in Boston I would give a heads-up to the other lunchtime runners along the Charles. When I lived in Chicago I would say hello to the other people who were crazy enough to go out and do a few miles along Lake Michigan in the frigid winds of February. Sure, I run alone, but even when I’m alone, I’m part of one really big team. Whoever set those bombs did it to my team. I cried for my teammates – those who I’ll never get to run with or high-five after an end-of-race sprint.

We will all keep running. The Boston Marathon will run next year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my race in San Francisco sells out for the first time ever after this horrible thing. It’s really hard to intimidate a group of people who feast on pain. We’re going to keep on running, and those of us who are training for San Francisco or New York or the Big Sur…every single one of us who was watching today vowed to run a little harder tomorrow. I had a goal time for the San Francisco Marathon, which I’m going to proudly run in two months; maybe now I’ll run it five minutes faster than that.

Golf, running, sports


April 15, 2013 by Dan

I read a little bit this past weekend about Tiger Woods and the Rules of Golf. (I’m not going to link to it, it was all over the news) What I found funniest about the whole thing was the phrase “the Rules of Golf.” With capitalizations. Even when quoting someone. Wikipedia doesn’t capitalize in the article, but they do capitalize the book name. Either way they succeeded in making golf look even more like a game for bourgeois wankers. I’m with Neil Tyson on this one.

I’ve also gone nuts and am running the San Francisco Marathon this year. This means that for the next few weeks I am going to be constantly sore, hungry, and a little grumpy. On the plus side, I was running in Golden Gate Park this past weekend, and was passed by a couple of college runners. One was wearing a T-Shirt that read Our sport is your sport’s punishment. Loved that.

I love Shipping. Really.


March 26, 2013 by Dan

When I was but a lad (well, OK, I was in my twenties) I was working on the 18th floor of the Bank of America building in downtown San Francisco. I liked the job just-kinda, but I loved the location. Downtown, fifteen minutes on my bike from my apartment, walking distance for lunch to Chinatown, North Beach, and the sandwich-factories of the financial district. A few days per week I’d bring my lunch and eat it in our lunch room, which was perhaps the best part of all.

The lunch room was on a corner, and each side had an enormous picture window. One looked right smack into the skyscraper across the way, which was topped by several granite statues of faceless women. The other had a nearly-unobstructed view of the bay. I would sit there and eat my sandwich or my Trader Joe’s Rice Bowl and watch the boats sail on the bay. After a few months of this, I started to really notice the cargo ships full of containers. Where were they coming from? What was inside? How big were they, actually?

Back then, the San Francisco Chronicle would publish the schedule of vessels coming in and leaving the Port of Oakland, and there was usually a copy lying around. So I would bring in my binoculars and happily compare the listings in the paper to the enormous, hulking ship on the water.

I left that job, and the wonderful lunch window, but whenever I was running on the Embarcadero or hiking at Land’s End, I would stop and stare when a container ship went by. It wasn’t that they were beautiful (although, as you will see below, they can be)…it was, I think, what they represented. Each ship, from so far away, full of so many things made by so many people, for so many others. The world, encased in steel, all floating on a maritime football field.

Word got around a bit – my dad got me a book about container ships for one of my birthdays, my lovely wife got me a pretty painting of one for our home office so I could look at them whilst working. For a year and a half I worked at an office downtown, right north of the Bay Bridge on the Embarcadero, with a wall of windows overlooking the water. I was in heaven – I would go to the office sometimes when nobody else was going to be there and watch the ships go by. If nobody came in that day, I was disappointed. I discovered, which live maps every container ship in the world, and I would check the ship names as they went by and check the site to see where it was coming from. An odd joy, for sure, but still a joy for me.

Last weekend we took the ferry from San Francisco to Alameda and back again. As we waited for our return trip, the NYK Artemissailed into the channel. We watched it go by, spellbound by its sheer size. After it passed us, the tug on the far side started pushing, and the enormous vessel actually turned around. A 180 is nothing in a car, but for a 300 meter ship? Wow. The Artemis sailed back up the channel and berthed next to the even-bigger Cosco Guangzho, which was somehow even bigger; longer, wider, cleaner-looking.


We sailed past, and a crewman in a jumpsuit waved to us. If you can’t see the beauty in that, well, I don’t know what to tell you.

One neat dude


March 26, 2013 by Dan

I was coming back from the grocery store the other day, and I saw this guy:

Dude. Grill. Bike.

And I know I’m all “the world is a wonderful place these days, but…man. That’s a very Mustachian way to transport a grill, isn’t it?

The world is a wonderful place


March 6, 2013 by Dan

I was thinking about that phrase just now.

“The world is a wonderful place.”

No, wait, let’s go ahead and make it better.

“The world is a wonderful place!”

OK, that’ll work.

So, what’s put this into my now-in-my-late-30s, curmudgeonly head? I live in a small apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the world. When I went running this morning I ached and I was irritated because I was still hurting from a cold that had kept me laid up all weekend. As I ran, I passed by the graying piles of people who were sleeping on the sidewalks on Page Street, which is where most of the Haight homeless seem to crash these days. When I finished running I was still cold from the raw wind that made its way from the sea all the way to my front door. After running errands, I had to drive for 45 minutes to get to where I’m typing this, which is an office.

But…let’s turn it around.

I live in a small apartment that I share with someone I love very dearly, with whom I’m going to spend the rest of my time, ever. We keep it small because we have very few things, and we live here because we can do what we did last night – walk a few blocks to a neighborhood sushi joint and eat at the bar, eavesdropping on college kids as they gossiped about their sex lives. So fun. I ached this morning because I was back to running after only five days off. I was really sick, but I sure didn’t stay that way. I ran past the homeless, and that’s sad, but it’s a problem that I can’t solve on my own. And I’ve never been low enough to be homeless myself. I’m thankful for that. It was cold when I finished, but only about 50 degrees, I can live with that. And I’m typing this from a desk at one of the most exciting places to work in the world, the kind of place that most people only dream of seeing. I’m here.

And the best part? The thing that makes the world so wonderful today? We’re going to Italy in a couple of months, and due to the magic of information technology and communication and everything getting smaller, we get to spend the weekend with Grant and Ellen, who we met in Kyoto last year.

How cool is that? The world…it’s a wonderful place.

A morning walk


February 18, 2013 by Dan

This morning I walked from my house down to my favorite cafe. This is what I saw.

A truck, broken.

A little further down…

I wondered what happened here – an argument, some frustration…what?

Then I passed a house that caught on fire last year. They’re rebuilding it, and the door was open.

And then I saw this contrast.

Then I came here and ate French toast with coffee and read a book. I’ve never been to my favorite cafe on weekend morning at eight before – it’s quiet, and a very different crowd than the afternoon-working crew I’m used to.

I like it.

Frightened Rabbits


January 31, 2013 by Dan

No joke, the only band that tours that I make it a point to see these days is the boys from Frightened Rabbit. They have a new single, which is very exciting to me.

Cops, San Francisco, a new one!


January 28, 2013 by Dan

I have many, many obsessions (container ships are one. Burritos used to be one. And on and on), things that make me excited. One of them is San Francisco-based police agencies. There are a ton of police and police-like agencies in the city, and this past weekend I saw a car of one that I hadn’t added to my mental list.

Which means that I should probably have a list that’s more than mental. So here’s the list:

  1. The San Francisco Police Department. The big guys.
  2. The Sheriff Department. Sadly, they are never chasing down the Dukes, but they run the jails and things.
  3. California Highway Patrol. They, obviously, handle the highways. But not security of the actual Golden Gate Bridge (see below).
  4. The BART Police. Infamous for the Oscar Grant thing, but they do have arresting powers right around stations, and underground.
  5. The San Francisco State University Police. I was never quite sure why they had cars, but while I was a grad student there, the cops I interacted with were fantastic. One helped me with a bike flat tire one time.
  6. The University of California, San Francisco Police. I’m assuming they’re similar to the State guys.
  7. University of San Francisco Public Safety. I’ve only seen one of their cars, once. They have a much smaller campus to deal with than the other schools. Now we’re going to start getting into the odder ones.
  8. San Francisco Park Rangers. They handle enforcement in all of the city parks.
  9. US Park Police. These guys handle all security and law enforcement on federal parks within the city – think the Presidio, Crissy Field, etc.
  10. The US Mint Police. Very special for us! There are only six offices of the Mint Police in the country, and our local one is actually in my neighborhood. Haighteration wrote an amazing article about the SF Mint, if you are interested in learning more.
  11. The Federal Protective Services Police. I couldn’t find a specific page for the San Francisco branch of this service, but they used to have a car parked outside an agency building on Sansome Street – I passed by it every day while working in that neighborhood. They’re a little wonky, but they do provide police services, they can arrest people, and (most importantly) they drive Ford Crown Vics.
  12. The Bridge Patrol. This is the car that I saw whilst running this past weekend. They’re different from the CHP in that they don’t handle the road, but instead handle the bridge. I think.
  13. San Francisco Community College Police. I saw this one whilst biking South of Market, after I hadn’t added an agency in nearly a year! So exciting.
  14. The Postal Police

That’s the current list, transcribed from my head onto this here Internet. I wonder…what have I missed? I’m not including the Patrol Specials because they’re so similar to the normal cops, and operate under charter.

New Year, New Stories, New Awesome


January 10, 2013 by Dan

It’s 2013! For me, this is a big year because it marks the tenth anniversary of me moving back to California. I was looking through this site and trying to find out if there was any writing about that particular move here, but…there are over a thousand posts on this site. That’s quite a few posts.

So anyway, I’ve been hear nine years, coming up on ten. I’ve had many jobs, obtained a master’s degree, met my (now) wife, partner, and greatest person in the world (really. She’s rad. She’s going to have a website soon, because she’s got a freelance writing career that’s better than mine ever was). I’m still workin’ away on the young adult thing, and moving a little slower on it than I’d truly like to. I’m training for a half marathon and (perhaps) a full marathon, and thinking about all of the wonderful places that we’re going to get to go this year, and all of the amazing things we’re going to get to see.

I’m writing this in a situation that would have been physically impossible when I moved to this state – I’m on a bus from San Francisco to Menlo Park (none existed, and the company I’m working for didn’t exist), online with a Macbook (the bus has wifi. That’s crazy), writing on a blogging system that didn’t exist. I kinda like that – it means that some things are progressing. Even if it’s only technology.

The things you see


December 20, 2012 by Dan

Woke up this morning and went for a nice, easy run over in Golden Gate Park – a run I do at least twice per week as my basic 4.5. It was cold – not ice-sheets-near-sprinklers cold, not frosty-grass cold, but cold enough for me to see my breath and be happy that I’d layered up a bit before leaving the house.

I think the most fascinating thing that I saw was…well, what I didn’t see. I didn’t see any large encampments of homeless folk near Alvord Lake. Just one guy on Page Street, huddled in a sleeping bag. Maybe the weather has driven people to shelters. I didn’t see hordes of kids headed to the Urban School, perhaps because it was too early for them to be dropped off.

I did see a set of ominous clouds to the west; if it had been thirty minutes earlier, and I had been a sailor, I would have taken warning. I did see several other joggers, and a couple of women coming back from a long bike ride.

As runs go, it wasn’t bad at all. I got home and thought – geez, am I lucky to be able to do this in the mornings.

Pinning and Christmasing


December 7, 2012 by Dan

So I got an email from Pinterest today, and I realized that I have looked at it perhaps twice, right when it was blowing up, and never since. So I went in and disabled all email (I get too much junk email, and try to do a look-and-unsubscribe at least once per month), which essentially shuts down my account.

Which is fine.

And I saw this post on Time via the Daily Dish about whether Facebook is killing the Christmas card, and I thought I’d ruminate on that for a minute or two.

For some it is, sure. But if you’re like the writer and have 1500 friends (200 real, 1300 folks who you know online or met once at a work thing or whatever), you’re probably actually not seeing all of the things that your real, actual friends are posting. If they’re posting at all.

Nina Burleigh’s reasoning is a bit off here, because she’s assuming that all those people on her list actually read and look at all of the stuff she’s putting up online. My money is that they don’t – they’ll skim, perhaps, but they won’t stop at every post, look at every photo, think about what those things mean to Burleigh as she posts.

Facebook is kind of a passive experience – you throw stuff up there, and if your groups of friends have been following everything that’s going on with your life that you put up there, it may make a reasonably coherent story. But more often than not…no. I had an email back-and-forth with a real friend yesterday that illustrates the point. I saw on FB that they were in escrow on a house – I had no idea that they were moving. So I emailed and asked what’s up, which led to a fun little update on what’s going on in each others’ lives, including where they were actually moving to. From my perusal on FB, it could have been down the block or to Kuala Lumpur.

Out of curiosity, I went back to FB after the conversation and found that, if I clicked into all of the comments, my friend had indeed added a comment later that detailed where they were actually going (not Kuala Lumpur, in case you’re curious). But I missed it.

Christmas cards – unlike Facebook, unlike easily-deleted or missed among the millions of Groupon-junk messages we get every day – are not ignorable for a couple of reasons. First – they’re physical, they show up in your box, and you have to either pick them up and recycle without opening them, or actually read them. Those are your choices; so they get read. And, more important, they represent effort and choice. Somebody made the effort to pick some photos that represent them or their family at that point in time. They made a list, and you, who receive the card, are lucky enough to be on it – these people think you’re important! And they addressed an envelope and bought stamps and put them in the mail. All of this – and these are all little things, but they take time, which is the most important thing we all have – is important, and meaningful. Much more so than a smattering of FB posts over the year, which may or may not have any meaningful information.

It’s why we are sending Christmas cards this year – they have a wonderful photo of us in Otaru, which some people have probably seen, but most people have not. Our friends and family will get that, they’ll see us and laugh, and they’ll be a little happier, because we made an effort. And if they’ve seen it before…well, who cares?

Odds and Ends and Commuting


December 5, 2012 by Dan

I’m writing this from a bus, which is yet another one of those things that makes you think that We Are In The Future. It’s one of the San Francisco Corporate Shuttles that are either a major boon for the Bay Area environment, or the One Thing That Will Destroy The City.

For me? It beats driving. But on this, my second day, I got to thinking about how incredibly lucky I am. For my entire post-college adult life – sixteen years, now – I have regularly driven to work exactly once, for six months. That was when I was living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, working for a small Internet company, and living in a very crummy two-bedroom apartment (my rent was $275/month. Wow) with two housemates, two miles from our office. I drove every day.

Since then, never. In my current job I drive places every now and then – but never more than once per week. This gig, although out of the city, at least enables me to not-drive. Don’t get me wrong – the three hours of commuting per day is pretty harsh – but at least I’m not in a car, stuck.

So that’s a thing.

I’ve also started writing something new, that I’m calling Dystopian YA Thing. See, it’s a dystopian thing that takes place in high school, and I’m trying not to use too many bad words, so that makes it, I think, YA-ish. My plan is to work on it on the bus as much as I can, and see where I can take it.



November 26, 2012 by Dan

I was in a local cafe yesterday, having a bagel for breakfast. The cafe is the kind of local place where the owner is from Eritrea and has a PhD in economics, and has turned her place into a neighborhood clearinghouse for pretty much everything, with a great view of everything that goes on at the bus stop in front of the big window.

I like it there.

The music is usually something international – reggae, a bit of folk, maybe something jazzy. This particular morning, I thought I was listening to the Velvet Underground; the bass walked up and down in a jaunty way, the guitars strummed, and the singer had a sharp, very male voice, speak/singing words that made me want to tap my feet along and rewind them and listen again.

I don’t have Shazam, so I wrote down some lyrics quickly and then Googled them up. And so I found Rodriguez.

When I got home, I added Searching for Sugar Man to my Neflix Queue, but I might go see it in the theater.

And so…that’s how you find art in the 2010s, I suppose. So different than how it was when I grew up.

Medium – contest entry!


November 19, 2012 by Dan

I went ahead and entered the short fiction writing contest over at Medium. My entry is here; it’s an old Charlie story that I happen to like very much.

I really, really like the Medium editor.

The Medium is Medium


November 15, 2012 by Dan

I just signed up for Medium, mainly because I saw a link that they had for a job as a Storyteller, which is much more attractive than a title that starts with “Marketing…”, followed by any word.

Medium is the Blogger guys, putting together a new platform. The idea behind the platform is to produce quality content. The Web and the world is awash in all kinds of words these days – I’m adding to the overload as I type here – and any effort to curate it is going to be welcome.

As far as I can tell, they’re working on a share-and-recommend model, with a bit of a collection-of-things twist (how’s that for language?), all mixed together with a good bit of tech. I like the idea – finding quality stuff to read is a bit manual – but it makes me curious about several things.

As happened when Quora came out, an abnormally large chunk of the stuff on Medium is about things that people care about in the Bay Area. Or, more specifically, things that people in a startup/tech culture care about. Lots of stuff about work, and about things that are ostensibly fun (music), written about in a very tech-type way.

On the front page of Medium, as I write this, 14 of 24 articles fit broadly into that theme. I’m not saying that anything’s wrong with that at this point; they’re still in beta and are doing an invite-only thing for posters, and that means the people on the site will be people who the founders know, and early adopter types. People who care about that broad theme, and write interesting things about it.

I think what I’m trying to get at here is that while the writing right now on Medium is good, it’s not that much fun. Nothing has bubbled up that could come from the guy behind the Oatmeal or Rob Bricken; I don’t expect to see anything there from an exasperated new mother who writes with hilarity about being covered in poop for the third time today.

Again, I’m not saying that that stuff should be on there now. But if the site wants to grow and be a repository for fantastic content of all kinds, it’s going to need to lighten up a bit. People read to learn, but they also read to be entertained.

Our trip to Japan, briefly


November 6, 2012 by Dan

J and I went to Japan earlier this year, and I wrote up a bunch of things about it. Here they are, in order, if you’d like to pick and choose:

Lounging at LAX
Flying Like the 1%
Daisetsu-Zan National Park
Business Hotels in Japan
A Night Out In Otaru
Getting to Kyoto
Temple Hopping in Kyoto
Out and About in Kyoto
Hida Beef in Takayama
Takayama Temples
Folk Villages, New Religions, and Tired Feet
Shirakawa – Go
Eating and Sleeping in Shirakawa – Go
Tokyo – The Beginning
Japanese Baseball
Sleeping like the 0.01%: The Park Hyatt Tokyo
A Serendipitous Sumo Tournament
Out and About in Tokyo
Flying Redux: ANA Business Class
Some Final Thoughts

That’s it! If you’re headed to Japan and have some questions about what we did and how we did it, feel free to get in touch dapperdanj at gmail dot com works just fine.

Japan – Practicalities


November 5, 2012 by Dan

If you’re planning on going to Japan and want some decidedly opinionated opinions on where to go and where to sleep and eat while you’re there, this is the post for you! I’m not looking to replace a guidebook or anything; this is just the places we enjoyed.


The Hotel Route Inn is a small business hotel, right across from the train station. The location is perfect if you (like us) are coming off of three flights and are exhausted. Efficient, friendly staff. Good breakfast. Just right.

While in Sapporo, we ate at the Ramen Alley, where the food looks like this:
Where we ate lunch

All of it was, to my unpracticed eye, pretty much the same. But it’s definitely an experience, and the ramen was great.

Daisetsu-zan National Park:

There are only a few places to stay in the park, and none of them are cheap. Our room at the Daisetsu-Zan Shirakabaso Hostel was jes’ fine for what we needed, and was cheaper than the large, corporate-ish other hotels. The food is very traditional Japanese – you’re not going to get a post-hike burger here.

Do yourself a favor and stay at the Hotel Vibrant. It’s right near the river in a beautiful building, with helpful staff, on-premise laundry machines, and croissants and coffee for breakfast. Can’t beat it. Right down the street is the little food maze where we had fantastic sushi and amazing tempura. You can’t miss it – it’s a warren of little six-seat restaurants, all doing their thing.

It is not physically possible for me to be happier than I was while staying at the B&B Juno. Small, cozy, helpful, comfortable, and welcoming. We loved it there so much.

The Yuzan Guest House was our base. It was extremely inexpensive, and was a pretty typical backpacker-hostel-type environment. The host is extraordinarily friendly (or…typical, depending on how you look at it) and our Japanese-style room was comfortable, funky, and at the top of some narrow stairs. Stay here if you are used to a hostel-style environment – those who are used to chains should probably stay away.

We loved the Rickshaw Inn . A beautiful room that combined Japanese style (futons, tea table) with some modern touches (flat-screen television). A sink in the room, a bathroom down the hall, and front-desk staff that saved our proverbial skins by finding us a place to stay in Shirakawa – Go. Amazing breakfast, a kitchen for the DIY in you (but really, eat some Hida beef), great coffee and tea, and free umbrellas! If you can afford it – it’s not rock-bottom cheap by any means – it’s a wonderful choice, right near the river.

If you’re looking to eat while there, the little burger stand right next to the river does a solid job, and the grilled-skewer guy is right across the street. I’d stay away from the Hida Beef soup that starts out raw – the meat isn’t cut quite thin enough to cook – but anything else that comes from a cow will blow your mind.

Staying here is a bit of an adventure – you can reserve a spot online through Japanese Guest Houses, but our spot (Furusato) isn’t available through their interface. A better bet is to go through the Rickshaw Inn or the tourist information bureau in Takayama; they’ll make phone calls for you and translate. You can also wing it and try at the tourist office in Shirakawa; it’s a coin-flip on the English there, but as with everything in Japan, they’re quite friendly.

Come on, do you think I’m not going to recommend the Hilton Shinjuku and the Park Hyatt Tokyo? If you can do it, do it. Here’s an easy way to do so.

For eating, I really can’t recommend anywhere in Tokyo. Not because there’s nothing good, but because it’s so unbeliveably big. Walk around and eat; go to a sushi joint with a line out the door, and find somebody with a sidewalk grill. You won’t regret a minute of it.