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 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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

Recursive Pareto

A rook, a bishop, and a pawn discovered a scroll. The pawn unrolled the parchment and read, “Buried treasure lies beneath the chessboard. Whoever amasses the greatest riches will rule the board.” The pieces leaned in, and the pawn continued: “Treasure lies beneath every square—” The rook leaped to the chessboard and ran across the […]


Picture a small clay bowl. It’s not quite a perfect circle. There’s a dimple on its rim and a chip on its side. This bowl is wabi-sabi (侘寂). Traditional Japanese aesthetics revolved around this concept of “flawed beauty.” A wabi-sabi object evokes a sense of “serene melancholy and spiritual longing.” You see the little bowl […]

Red Pill or Blue Pill

Near the beginning of The Matrix, the protagonist receives two pills. Either he can take the Blue Pill to expunge dangerous thoughts and retain his everyday life or take the Red Pill and learn an unsettling but life-changing truth. Many controversial ideas have stolen this Red Pill/Blue Pill concept, and I will shamelessly do the same! […]


Language constrains our range of expression. It isn’t easy to express a thought or a feeling with words when the language doesn’t have a matching concept. We resort to other forms of expression—paintings, dance, music, stories—to express the things we cannot name. That exploration is beautiful and results in art that can move us. But […]

Fragile, Resilient, Antifragile

Last month, the power went out at the gym. Lights went black, the treadmills stopped moving, and huge, medieval-looking doors slammed shut around us—sealing us inside like the plot of an Agatha Christie novel. It made me realize how fragile my workout was: No electricity, no running. In Greek Mythology, the Sword of Damocles is […]

Chronos & Kairos

The Ancient Greeks had two concepts for time: Chronos and Kairos. Chronos is quantitative, purpose-driven, and marked by hours and minutes, and Kairos is qualitative, having no measure or agenda. No surprise, but Chronos was portrayed as stodgy and evil, whereas Kairos was romantic, pure, and beautiful. Reducing Chronos and Kairos to simplistic terms like […]

The Sorting Hat

Some college friends were in town, so I joined them to watch Michigan clobber Iowa for the Big-Ten championship. Like most good friendships, we picked up where we left off. We caught up on events from our post-grad lives—jobs, places lived, and partners come and gone. Despite this effortless connection, I couldn’t help but think […]