January 2014

Coffee Posse Is Go!




For the last year I’ve been curating a box with Quarterly – which, as the name suggests, sends subscribers a box of things I’ve picked out four times a year. In the second box I put together I included a bag of coffee that I was really enjoying and received some excellent feedback from people, including a handful of them lamenting that I wasn’t able to hand pick their coffee all the time. Of course, this got me to thinking. There are a number of wonderful options if you want to have coffee shipped to you, Tonx and Intelligentsia immediately come to mind – both of which I recommend all the time. So it’s not an issue of people not being able to get coffee, rather it seemed like people were interested in me actually picking different things to send them each month. Different roasters, different farms. It was kind of a crazy idea honestly. Would it actually be possible for me to send some people coffee on a regular basis? Is this something people would actually pay for rather than just going and buying coffee on their own? Was this just an excuse for me to try lots of coffee all the time? Maybe so.

End of last year I said fuck it, and launched the coffee posse. Keeping it limited and small at first to see if it works, and not make it too hard for myself right away. This week I’m shipping out the first boxes of coffee. I’m writing a bit more about why I picked this specific coffee, but that’s just going to the people who will be getting these delivered to them. I’m excited to see this idea become reality, and think it’ll be a pretty fun project to mess around with for the next few months at the very least. If you are a member of the posse, expect something on your doorstep soon. If you aren’t and want to be, there are a very few spots left.

What’s In My Bag (travel edition)

Sean Diptych

After my talk at Mailchimp the other day, Jason Travis approached me and asked if I’d be willing to be a part of his ongoing series of portraits and “what’s in your bag” photos he’s been doing. I thought it sounded like fun and, since I wasn’t expecting to do it, I didn’t overthink what I should have in my bag at that point. It was literally what I had with me for that trip, just off the plane, giving a talk, heading back the next day. I really like it, and it’s funny how years of style, color, theme choices all work together.

OK, so what is all this stuff??
(I’m including links of where to buy when possible to avoid a slew of “where do I get…?” – If there’s no link I forgot or can’t find it online anymore)

Friends will note that the glaring omission is any kind of knife, and I’ll point out again I’d just gotten off a plane. Also, my laptop was hooked up to a projector and I’d forgotten to grab it for this.


Mailchimp Coffee Hour Talk

This morning I gave a talk at Mailchimp Headquarters that I was fairly nervous about giving. Last year and old friend of mine – Gregg Bernstein – who I hadn’t talked to in quite sometime reached out to me about coming to give a talk at his office. He works at Mailchimp and they have an ongoing speaker series called Coffee Hour and he thought I might be a good fit for it. I said of course and didn’t think much about it as the date was kind of far off at that point. I actually really like Mailchimp and use their Tinyletter platform for my personal newsletter (which you should subscribe to if you haven’t already) though I wasn’t totally clear on what he wanted me to talk about. Normally when people ask me to come talk at an event or to some group of people they somehow persuaded to sit quietly in a room together they have a set topic in mind and ask me to speak about that. That’s easy, hand me something and I can talk about if for hours – even if it’s something I don’t know anything about I’ll just make some shit up and people will assume I’m an expert on the topic. You think I’m joking there, but.. well, yeah. Keep in mind that I’m a college drop out. Anyway, when Gregg asked me to come talk I agreed and then I asked what I should talk about and he said “anything” which left me thinking “…” so I asked again, with a little more sincerity and he said clarified that as long as the talk was about me and the stuff I’ve done all would be well. 


If you know me, you know my least favorite topic to talk about is me and the stuff I’ve done. I get super self conscious and all the little head voices tell me how stupid it all is and that no one cares and who the fuck do I think I am talking about stupid shit like this and all that. Most often I take those voices as trusted council and avoid this dangerous topic at all cost, but I for this I told those voices to shut the hell up and I moved right into uncomfortable land. In part because I never do it, and I thought forcing myself to do it might help me get more comfortable with it, or at worst at least I could point to this in the future if anyone asked. I tweeted that I was giving the talk and some folks asked if it was open to the public or if they could watch it online, neither of which is was – fortunately for me, unfortunately for those folks. But what I did do was record the audio and posted it as episode 005 of my Viva Riot podcast, and I put the slides up on Slideshare as well in case anyone wants to listen and follow along at home. I’m embedding the slides here, though I know sometimes some people can’t see these embeds, so here’s a direct link as well.

If I sound nervous, especially at the beginning that’s because I was. I seriously considered faking my own death this morning at the hotel before making my way to their offices, but I didn’t and I think I calmed down a few minutes into it and it went really well. I think it did anyway. I did a “questions?” thing at the end and about 10 people had really great questions – the audio didn’t work out so well on those however, but I think if my talk sucked people would have just walked out rather than hang around and ask questions and stuff after. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway. So there it is. Thanks Gregg, and Thanks Mailchimp!

Seeing the light

The rule of thumb for tools & stuff you carry around everyday is “two is one and one is none” which basically means you lose things, batteries die, stuff breaks at the wrong moment, etc and if you only have one of something and you need it in a pinch and something goes wrong you are out of luck, having two always gives you a back up plan. I’ve been a fan of this rule for a number of things, not the least of which is flashlights. People who don’t carry flashlights can’t understand why you need even one, but once you get used to how handy they are you can’t imagine not having one within arms reach at all times. For my purposes I’ve settled on the CR123 + AAA combo. That is, a super bright yet compact and pocketable primary light driven by a CR123 battery, and a smaller yet capable AAA light on my keychain. It’s a set up that works great for me. Some people opt for two lights that use the same battery size or something but I tend to think if you are going to have two they should be different enough to justify themselves. But anyway.

I’ve had an original Arc AAA light on my keychain for over 6 years which I bought after doing a ton of research. That thing is SOLID and it’s served me really well – still works perfectly. Unfortunately the other day I noticed that the keychain hole had almost worn all the way through. I had a titanium split ring in there which might have caused the problem, titanium being stronger than the aluminum the light is made out of and all. I don’t think it’s a problem with the light and blame it much more on my own heavy use. In fact, because I like the light so much I’m not ready to just trash it and may make a weekend project out of coming up with a new way to attach a hook. But in the meantime, I need a new light for my keychain.

Perhaps I’m feeling a little saucy at the moment, but I felt like going way out to left field and abandoning the traditional tacti-cool aircraft aluminum or titanium as a material and trying something new. I’ve been into copper recently – we have some copper cups at home and I got a copper pen that I’ve been enjoying, so when I saw that County Comm had an all copper version of their Maratac AAA I was in. That light regularly gets great reviews on the nerdy flashlight geek websites  and at under $50 I didn’t even really have to think about it.


Being a pure element, copper has some unique properties and should tarnish quite interestingly after carrying it for a while. My first impression after getting it is that the little wire used to create the keychain loop may be a problem, but only time will tell. It has 2 brightness levels instead of the on/off that the arc had, and is considerably brighter in the higher setting, though that comes at the cost of shorter battery life.

Since apparently I’m susceptible to suggestion or easily marketed to when I’m in the buying mood, seeing that they just released an all copper CR123 as well, also for under $50, I gave in and got it. Maybe I’m just a sucker for matching stuff. I have these crazy conversations with myself where I try to justify this completely ridiculous behavior – where I blatantly know I’m trying to fool myself or make myself feel better about doing something I shouldn’t be doing, and then I do it anyway. I’m all “Dear Sean, this shit is going to happen wether you like it or not so you better come up with a way to be OK with it. Love, Sean.”

I have the U1 version of the Sunwayman V10r which is no slouch of a light. Solid titanium, a cool magnetic brightness control and compact as crap. I’ve had it for about 5 years and it’s still a fantastic light. So I have no good reason to replace it at all. Except, you know, this other one is copper. And I suck.


The Maratec is smaller, but it’s heavier because copper outweighs titanium by a lot. And the Maratec has 3 modes – low/med/high where as the magnetic swivel ring on the Sunwayman is basically endless brightness control, however I think the Maratec tops out a bit brighter because it’s all new tech, were as the Sunwayman is fairly obsolete all these years later. The CR123 size light is where manufacturers really flex the new electronics, new LEDs, new reflectors and stuff so generally any higher end new CR123 light is going to beat the pants off one just a few years older. So I’ll carry the Maratec for a while and see how it goes.

But for under $100 I got two brand new flashlights that that should last many, many years to come – not bad.


Earlier this week a news report started spreading around with a bunch of my long time friends. A bank in Orlando had been robbed and the security camera photo looked a lot like someone we knew. Some people assumed right away it was our friend, others debated one aspect or another in hopes of convincing others (or maybe themselves) that this couldn’t be him. As that discussion went on people started telling stories of some stupid thing this guy had done at one point or another, or how they hadn’t seen him recently but when they had last he wasn’t doing so hot. And those stories were followed by stories of other friends, or friends of friends who had take a turn for the worse. Arrests, suicides, OD’s – yes those are plural . and that’s just in the last month. That might seem excessive, and it probably is, but you know all the jokes everyone makes about Florida? There’s more truth to them than anyone realizes.

I grew up in Florida. I wasn’t born there and my early childhood was spent bouncing around to a number of cities around the country, but my formative years – the ones I remember and the ones that I believe had a real lasting impact on me – those were in Florida. And let me tell you, shit is fucked up in Florida. Don’t get me wrong, it’s home in so many ways, and there will always be parts of it and people there that are truly special, and not just to me. I still have family there. I still have friends there. The rooftop of the rec center overlooking a baseball field where I first kissed a girl – really kissed a girl not just some peck on the cheek – it’s still there. The clubs where I saw the most important bands in my life, their names have changed but the buildings are still there. Apartments I lived in still stand. Streets I used to walk down everyday are still blanketed with moving shadows from the trees that line them. There’s magic there. But that doesn’t change the fact that shit is fucked up in Florida. And there’s a reason I don’t live there anymore. Hundreds of them to be honest.

I rarely visit, because inevitably when I do I cross paths in a very real way with my past. I see people I knew who are still doing the thing they did 20 years ago. I see people who had all the potential in the world, who obviously never did anything with it. I see places that sucked then, that have only gotten worse. You can feel it. And even among my friends, we joke about the people that moved away and the ones that stayed. Not that there’s anything wrong with staying, some of my favorite people in the world still live in Florida and I miss them but I can’t handle going there to see them. Some things are better left in the past, and I wish I could reach in and pull some of those people into the present.

Today we got the confirmation of what we’d hoped wasn’t true. The look alike in the photo was exactly who we thought it was. Arrested, in custody. And with that confirmation came some links, including online arrest records with mugshots of previous arrests, 10 of them in fact, dating back to ’95. DUI to possession of marijuana to possession of cocaine to robbery. I hadn’t seen or talked to him since around the time of the first arrest. I don’t remember it happening, maybe I never knew about it but he lived downstairs from me around that time and we often hung out and played records and talked music. We weren’t close friends as much as friendly neighbors who ran in similar circle of friends and had similar backgrounds. I distinctly remember him joking one time that while we had both grown up as part of the straight edge scene from Tampa, he’d started drinking and smoking pot and was now laid back and never in trouble where as I, still a die hard tea totaler was pretty tightly wound and had more than one run in with the police. And then, here we are all these years later.


I haven’t been able to really stop thinking about it all day, and it’s horrifying and depressing and disappointing and infuriating all wrapped up into one. But mostly, I’m just bummed because it’s a fucking waste.

And once again I’m face to face with the bullet that I somehow dodged.



Clutter, pt 1


For me, part of the problem with clutter is that it gives me too many choices and then I spend endless time and mental effort worrying if I’ve made the right choice, or if I should have used something different or tried something a different way. When I was poor as shit and had one jacket, I never worried if I was wearing the right jacket – if it was cold I wore my jacket. If it was really, really cold I wore my sweatshirt too. End of story. I wasn’t stressing all day that I’d worn the wrong jacket.  Many years of busting ass and creating opportunities and a life for myself I have several jackets. One is heavier, one lis lighter, one is waterproof, one is water resistant, one is wind proof, etc… the marketing that causes this situation is obvious, but the result is no matter what I wear, I’m worried that I wore the wrong thing – I took the light jacket and I’m still cold, I took the heavy jacket and I’m too worm, it started to rain and my water proof jacket is at home, and so on. For me, having more options rarely works out to my mental benefit, which is in part why I spend so much time thinking about what the perfect single solution is and then limiting myself to only that.

Having less money to play with made that easier, because I could only buy one thing, and if I bought the wrong thing I had to sell it to buy the right thing. Having more money to play with means I can try other things without getting rid of previous things – or get two things to try and the same time and see which is best. But it never ends up that cut and dry, and as the years pile on so does the closet and drawers fill with choices. But really they aren’t choices, they are clutter. Physical and mental, because even if I don’t use them they are in the back of my mind and I either feel guilty that I’m not using them or disappointed that I haven’t gotten around to getting rid of them yet. When I simplify to one option – that I actually use – all that stress goes away. I’ve learned that about myself, which is helpful.

We’ve been in our new place for a year now and it’s time to deal with things that might still be in boxes from the move, or things that I thought I lost in the move and replaced and while going through old moving boxes found, and now I have choices. And clutter. When it’s a little bit it’s easy to push aside, but the more it grows the bigger it weighs on me and the more I realize I need to address it and deal with it, so I’m putting time aside this month to think about and address just that.

This isn’t only a physical, I end up with digital clutter too. I have 5 writing apps on my ipad & 3 note taking apps. Some sync with Google, some with Dropbox, some with a native desktop app that I have on my laptop and or phone. Some don’t sync with anything but the user interface and experience is really nice. So when I need to write something down I need to decide is this just a quick note to myself, or something I’m going to expand on later in longer form. What if it’s a note to myself by *might* become something longer? What if I’ve already got some similarly themed notes, now I need to remember which app, which system, which process I used to take those notes before. Once I’m past that I need to think if this is writing that is just for me, or is it something I’m going to want to share with my team for collaborative editing? Or what if it’s something I want to just share with my wife, like a grocery list, which apps is she using? Or what if it’s something I’m just writing for myself but will later want to do something else with? If I’m going to post it to my blog I need to keep that in mind because the ipad doesn’t copy and paste text with links very well (at all) so maybe I need to write it in a blogging app instead of a writing app. Or what if I’m going to send it to an editor, which app are they using? It gets chaotic pretty quickly. It’c clutter. So in part of this I need to look at what workflow works for me, and streamline around that, get that nailed and then later consider how others might interact with it, but if I have an idea I want to just write it down, and to spend no time at all thinking about how and where to write it down.

Part of this is admitting that there is no perfect solution for everyone, there’s what works for me and I should more often trust my gut and less often worry about conflicting recommendations or reviews. That applies to all of this. If my jacket works and I like it, why do I find myself looking at jackets in the store? It goes back to trusting myself and the choices I’ve made, and accepting that I certainly did the research and made those choices for a reason – there’s no value in second guessing myself after the fact.

In future posts over the next days, weeks, I’ll dig into the nitty gritty of which apps I have and which I’m choosing to keep and why. Why this pocket knife is more practical than that one. Why these shoes work and those ones don’t. Why of the 5 water bottles I have in the kitchen, I always use this one and the others shouldn’t be even there in the first place.

Maybe some of this thought process will help you sort through some of your own clutter. Maybe not.


Unreasonable Search

Can someone double check my logic here because the math I’m doing is freaking me out and I need someone to tell me I’m reading something wrong. This is where I’m at:

A. Yesterday a Federal court ruled that no suspicion is needed to search electronics at the US border. According to the ACLU press release, this“allows the government to conduct intrusive searches of Americans’ laptops and other electronics at the border without any suspicion that those devices contain evidence of wrongdoing”

This is of course in relation to the Border Search Exception which “allows searches and seizures at international borders and their functional equivalent without a warrant or probable cause” – The ACLU hard argued this violated the Fourth Amendment which guards against unreasonable search and seizures. The court decided that it did not.

So there’s that, but what are we talking about when we say “border” exactly?

B. According to this piece from 2008, the Government considers a 100 mile zone from any international border or coastline to be “the border” even if that coastline isn’t butting up against another country. Drawing a border like this designates the entirety of the states of Florida and Hawaii as “border” as well as most major cities in the US – All of NYC, LA, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, etc.. all considered to be “border.”

Which leads me to think about A + B, do the combination of these rulings suggest that the government can decide my house, located in Los Angeles and within 100 miles of the coastline, is on the border, and thus available to be searched without probable cause? Can govt agents show up at my doorstep and demand I hand over my computers for them to inspect? The piece seems to talk about checkpoints rather than door to door searches, but is one so far from the other? But even if it’s checkpoints, could these be set up all over Los Angeles and all laptops carried by people be subject to seizure? I think that’s what this means – that it would be legal at least.

Wired wrote a piece about the newest ruling and causally mentions the 100 mile zone issue but glosses past it – seems to me like this should be THE major issue at hand.

Someone please tell me I’m misunderstanding this…

I did stuff in 2013

It’s easy to look back on a year and write it off as good or bad based on a quick feeling, and I’m certainly no one to argue against gut judgements – but sometimes when you stop and take stock things are a little different than you remembered. I came face to face with that realization the first time I did my year in photos review back in 2007 (will get this years together soon) and since then I’ve tried to make an effort to break things down a little more before throwing everything in the same bucket. 2013 was weird for sure, a lot of people have a lot of negative things to say about things that happened and I’ll let them do that as much as they want, but I wanted to take note of a few things I did this year that I’ve never done before:

  • Wrote and published a original fiction book
  • Contributed text to a non-fiction book authored and published by someone else.
  • Recorded and released an EP with my art collective/project
  • Rode Space Mountain with my son Ripley when he was finally tall enough
  • Went to Costa Rica* (furthest south I’ve ever been in the Americas)
  • Went to Hawaii* (which, if you count a layover in Anchorage once as I do, completes a visit to all 50 US states)
  • (*related) Vacationed in beachy paradise like locations with my family
  • Started a personal mailing list (which, from a zero starting point, now has over 300 subscribers)
  • Started a podcast (and told some great stories with friends)
  • Went to the Bujinkan Honbu dojo and trained directly with Hatsumi Soke
  • Took Pilaties class (for 2 months)
  • Along with Tara, was the Hacker(s) In Residence at Sparkfun in Boulder, CO – the first invited for their newly launched HiR program

I’m sure there are more, but those immediately jump out in my head as milestones -many of them full on bucket list items. And if, with no real effort I can think of 12 things that I did – one a month for the entire year – that I’m proud of and will look fondly on and remember for the rest of my life, well, that’s hard to complain about. Even better is that at least half of them I had no plans or intention to do this time last year. I don’t yet know what 2014 will bring, but I can’t wait to find out.