In a rural Chinese village, Wu Yulu builds robots from scrap metal. One of his walking, talking robots with rubbery lips pulls the farmer around in a rickshaw. Yulu’s contraptions also pour tea, light cigarettes, and walk across the ceiling with magnetic feet. All these creations, which Yulu lovingly calls his “children,” are products of […]

Welcome the Hydra

Hercules underwent twelve labors, and his second labor was iconic: slaying the Lernaean Hydra. A reptilian creature with twelve venom-spewing heads preyed upon nearby villagers, and any attempt to kill the beast only made it grow stronger, for slicing off one head made two new heads grow in its place. More heads meant more appetite, […]

Beware Scale

I live three blocks from three grocery stores with three unique names, yet they’re all owned by one company. QFC, Fred Meyer, Safeway—facades of the omniscient Kroger. All have the same generic brands and convenient discount programs, but consumers have the illusion of choice. I don’t necessarily have an issue with shopping at the grocery […]

The Portmanteau Strategy

Urban planning nerds love to hate a stroad. “Too ugly!” they say, “Too dangerous!” Most towns built in the last century revolved around a car-centric lifestyle, which began to blur our concepts of urban infrastructure. A street is designed with pedestrians in mind—storefronts line its edges, traffic lights are frequent, and people mosey along its […]

Bike Commuting

When my office reopened in 2022, I had to relearn commuting. I tried driving, but I couldn’t stomach the daily parking cost. I tried public transit, but the bus was often delayed and dirty. I even tried walking, but that took over an hour each way. So, I chose to bike. Funnily enough, each commute […]

The Ski Lesson

Ski season is over in the Northwest, but I’m grateful for my experiences on a half-dozen mountains this winter. From the upper bowls of Whistler to the creaky Chair 2 at Alpental, I had a blast with friends and solo, in rain and hail and snow and shine, but one trip stands above the rest. […]

Glass, Rubber, and Cloth

Cloth In high school, I was obsessed with unicycling. I filmed videos balancing on the roof of my parents’ house, won the school talent show, and even rode around in a unitard until a cop thrust a nightstick into my spokes. I had lots of fun on my unicycle, so it was only natural that […]

After-Dinner Mints

My favorite Seattle restaurant scores high on three dimensions: friendly staff, reasonable prices, and tasty food. Aptly called Amazing Thai, the small joint is pick-up, call-in only. When you meet the smiling owner to pay, he watches you leave a tip. If you do, he smiles a little wider and hands you an Andes mint. […]

A Party of One

I never played Dungeons & Dragons, but I was always fascinated by the character classes. Like the fellowship in The Lord of the Rings or the squad in The Bad Batch, a core component of D&D is a balanced group of characters whose strengths offset each other’s weaknesses. The classic party includes someone that heals, […]


When I was ten and obsessed with Redwall, I arose an hour early to write a page for my fantasy saga about warring anthropomorphic animals. These “books” never earned readers other than encouraging family members, but I believed they could be big someday if only given time in the limelight. My expectations contained more fantasy […]

Cover Crops

February is the month when New Year’s Resolutions go to die. We might as well cancel that gym membership, pause our Duolingo subscription, and stop buying books. I’m only half-joking. Chances are, we bit off more than we could chew in the new year, and now we’re facing the grim reality of our big eyes […]

Start with the Jar

If you’ve seen Rudolph: The Red-Nosed Reindeer, you’ll remember the Island of Misfit Toys. When sitting around a fire on Christmas Eve, the sad little misfit doll said, “I haven’t any dreams left to dream.” This line contains a profound but familiar sadness—giving up on a better future because of continual disappointment. The more we […]

Four Frames

I have a document called “resolutions.doc,” where I log my new year’s resolutions. I’ve been writing resolutions for so long that the file predates Microsoft’s .docx format, and Word opens it in “compatibility mode.” As I sift through my archive, I see the same resolutions year after year because I repeatedly failed to achieve them. […]

Social Arithmetic

Any good novel or film illustrates that people “contain multitudes” and aren’t reducible to numbers. From a humanist perspective, this belief is sound. But from a practical standpoint, sometimes we should call a spade a spade. People as Values There’s something pure about basic math—numbers have a universality that transcends culture, and arithmetic equations are […]

The Conversational Octopus

The words we use to frame an interaction can flavor our behavior. For instance, are we having an argument or a conversation? Argument is War My recent fascination with the intersection of philosophy and linguistics has led me to Metaphors We Live By, which explores our relationship with metaphors and how they structure our social […]

Seven Puzzles

It’s puzzle season in North America. During these dark, cold months, I’ve come to enjoy jigsaw puzzles to get off screens, do a low-stress activity with loved ones, and labor on something with no meaningful goal. A recent jigsaw I did by the aptly named Magic Puzzle Company had clever eye candy on all 1000 […]

Steering Pegasus

Everyone has the potential to do great things, and I’d venture half of us have the ambition to realize that potential. But few can manage the pull of ambition. Imagine ambition as a Pegasus, the flying horse from Greek mythology. We’ve attached a chariot to this mighty beast, set it on a path, and now […]

Going Reptilian

The world is complex. But navigating complexity is taxing, so we gravitate toward simple dichotomies of this or that, one or two, red or blue. Binary situations have their place, but they’re restrictive when deciding how to invest one’s time, energy, or resources. Imagine a rope with two anchors—one on the left and one on […]

Thinking Caps

Are we anything but the roles we play? Be it at home, work, or play, we wear a dozen hats: Parent, friend, volunteer, manager, peer, runner, stamp collector. We might be more than the sum of our roles, but the hats we wear determine our perspective. Thinking about our roles as hats lets us change […]


I hope you’re enjoying spooky season. With Halloween around the corner, I thought I’d spill some ink about a season classic: Frankenstein. Kitbashing Adam Savage, the former host of MythBusters and famous maker, started his career in set-making. To craft realistic-looking props for films like Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, he took hobby modeling kits (for trains, […]

Finding and Making

I spent the last two weeks in Budapest visiting coworkers. Alongside goulash, bathhouses, and palinka, I enjoyed learning a Hungarian folk saying: A sült galamb nem repül a szájába, or “A roasted pigeon will not fly into one’s mouth.” A century ago, Hungarians in the countryside ate roasted quail (or pigeons, I guess). The folk […]

Embracing Seasonality

What if knowledge work changed with the seasons? Last week, my sister and I hiked the Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier—a beautiful romp through alpine meadows appropriately named “Paradise”—and spent some time watching marmots. The furry creatures crawled over rocks to nibble on vegetation, ravenously consuming calories in preparation for the long winter. Snow would […]

Caves and Cathedrals

How does our environment shape our thoughts? My favorite short story is “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver. Carver is known for his grounded, minimalist writing that depicts working-class Americans in the 1980s. This style created a strong voice for the characters in “Cathedral.” In the story, a blind man taught a close-minded man to draw a […]

Exploring the Great Lake of Knowledge

Should we generalize or specialize? What if there was a sixth Great Lake? Beyond Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario, and Superior imagine you visited the Great Lake of Knowledge. You see waves going on for miles from your place on the beach, and you wonder what dwells along the shoreline or lurks beneath the surface. How […]

Creative Distillation

“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” — Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, 1657 Imagine a world where ideas were concrete instead of abstract and thinking was a mechanical process. In this world, intellectuals have big funnels atop their heads to collect ideas. Here, ideas […]