#daily videos

June 2017

16 July 2017

Northern California is brown now. The rolling green hills of winter and spring have turned dry–the plants shriveled and dull, ground hard and cracked. During my first week here, I took my bike up and down green slopes. The earth was so wet that I ended up sliding face first in the mud. This June, I biked through the hills again, over earth so dry that I was nearly vibrated off the trail. The weather change may be minor, but the seasonal climate shift is nothing to scoff at.

 

Short of work and biking; I had a quick trip to Atlanta. It was the first time I had flown in several months, and I had the pleasure of spending long layovers in new airports. Sarcasm withheld, I am quite fond of long layovers. Once through security and not late for a flight, airports are relaxing. There’s plenty of time to read, think, and people watch. The anticipation of the flight to come is exciting, and there’s always a conveyor belt to walk on.

 

Despite the anticipation, the Atlanta trip was a net loss since I dropped my phone in Lake Lanier. Unable to retrieve it–despite the Otter Box probably keeping it perfectly dry–I upgraded to the iPhone 7 when I came home. Short of the missing audio jack (improved aesthetics and impetus to buy AirPods), there was nothing notably different than the 6. t was due for an upgrade anyway.

 

Beyond a technology upgrade, I enhanced a few other things. One, the premium version of Spotify–convenience and quality well worth the monthly fee. Two, a subscription to The Economist–well worth the limited ads and world news. Three, a loss of my best never-have-I-ever: I drank coffee. Black. At a little diner in Eastern California, I had my first taste of the world’s life fuel. What’s more, I actually liked it. It was plain, bitter, and got my mind rolling much quicker than it normally does in the morning. Haven’t had a sip since, but I’ll consider working it into my routine. Why limit myself? While self-denial can be a differentiator and bolster of strength in some regards, other limitations are just silly.

 

May 2017

4 June 2017

I dog sat this month. The beast was nice–friendly and well-behaved. I couldn’t tell you the breed, but he was some kind of mutt. He was a pleasure to babysit–I enjoyed walking and feeding him and generally having a dependent for the week. But the week was enough. Guilt weighed me down each time I left for work, keeping him caged for eight to ten hours. To compensate, I spent about an hour each evening taking him for walks and giving some TLC. As much as I enjoyed it, my free-time was spent and my couch covered in fur. I really enjoy free-time and a clean apartment, so this state was not sustainable for me. Thus, a realization: I love animals, but I don’t want pets.

 

Just as I live a transient life–moving from place to place–many people come in and out my life. This month, I had a handful of visitors, which gave me the excuse to explore several of the national and state parks. In San Ramon, the Las Trampas Open Space was an idyllic place of rolling green hills and views. Just ten minutes from town, you felt completely remote among the hills. Along the coast, I visited Point Reyes National Seashore and the Sonoma Coast. It was boggling to see rundown ranches along the cliffs of the Pacific, cows grazing before the crashing waves. It was beautiful to see such picturesque landscape left for agriculture instead of wealthy housing. On the east side of the state, I visited the chain of National Parks amidst the granite canyons and giant forests–Yosemite, King’s Canyon, and Sequoia. Yosemite was crowded and remote–requiring a two-hour drive along narrow mountain roads to get to the main tourist area. The granite cliffs were worth it, especially with the rain and fog to add a flavor of mystery. Sequoia and King’s Canyon left me feeling like an insect. The Sequoias were super trees–growing three times larger and older than any other tree. They survive forest fires and droughts and mankind.

 

California is truly America’s Greatest Hits. The source for technology and innovation, film and entertainment, agriculture and natural beauty. It’s a wonderful thing to look at maps of the state and see the eastern half colored green. National Parks and Forests abound, and it’s critical we keep it that way. Not everyone agrees, even in today’s age. National Parks are managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. National Forests are managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A seemingly trivial piece of information, but a differentiation with potentially dire consequences. National Parks, such as Yosemite, are very difficult to take away, whereas National Forests–such as Stanislaus–are, as so eerily labeled on a roadside sign: “A land of many uses.” There are fewer restrictions on National Forests, so the government has the power to develop, farm, mine, or sell the land as needed. Hetch Hetchy, for instance, was a valley that John Muir found even more beautiful than Yosemite. When the City of San Francisco decided it needed more water, it dammed up the valley to build a reservoir. This could have been built somewhere else–in a less picturesque setting–but they took it in an exhibition of power. The people would never see the valley, so they could care less. Few people even know of Hetch Hetchy, despite it being the source of their livelihoods. But it’s for this reason that we must pay attention to the classification of our parks. While seeing the green half of California may provide a sense of comfort, know that a good portion of that land could be repurposed when the government deems fit. It’s something I keep in mind, especially in the current political climate.

 

April 2017

2 May 2017

I hate ads. At least bad ads–spammy popups, billboards, unwanted phone calls–but I have soft spot for podcast-style commercials. Brief and solicited by the host, they’re actually credible and targeted to me. This blog isn’t sponsored, but here are some endorsements:

 

In my final days of 23, I submitted DNA to 23-and-Me. In fewer than the advertised 6-8 weeks, I learned I’m of 99.8% European descent, lactose-intolerant, blue-eyed, and not a carrier of major disease. At least nothing the tests caught. I highly recommend the service. As the company continues to flesh out their genetic research, more information will be available to patrons of the site. The more contributors, the better the results–so give your body to genetics. To science!

 

I’m not into clothes–I hate shopping and feel more comfortable naked. But I believe every man should have a good suit, myself included. For the past six years, I’ve attended formal events in the mismatched sport-coat and slacks from my high school prom. The pants were getting worn and the coat a bit tight in the shoulders. It was time for an upgrade. Rather than drag myself to a crappy department store and buy a crappy suit, I used Indochino. Applying the discount code from my favorite podcast, I got a custom wool suit for quite a bargain. Charcoal with adjustable sleeves, custom stitching, and an embroidered interior; perfect for any occasion and many moons. All without leaving my door.

 

Jealous of birds? I’ve been there. Bored by planes? Me too. Enjoy dangerous sports with legal ambiguity and unending thrill? Who doesn’t? I’ve wanted to hang glide for many years, and this month I indulged in that dream. After a short drive to Milpitas on weekend mornings, I spent several hours learning the basics of constructing and flying a hang glider. East Bay Hang Gliding offers in-depth lessons on a beautiful California hillside.

 

It was a good month. Now onto May.

 

March 2017

1 April 2017

March was boring. Relative to the last few months, I did little of interest to anyone other than me.

 

This month allowed me to acclimate to my new work and get situated at my new residence. I did some spring cleaning in multiple regards–environmentally via Craigslist sales and Goodwill donations, mentally via cutting back personal projects , physically via dental and optometric exams, professionally via resume cleanup, digitally via server consolidation, and spiritually via bad habit kicking. Isn’t that exciting?

 

I had acquired the bulk of my living room furniture for $9 when living in Schenectady. I’ve travelled with it since, but with my now slightly smaller apartment, I was better off without it. The same went for a pile of old t-shirts and a microwave. Moving apartments a lot generates a deal of excess. Some units have microwaves, some don’t. Some have balconies and others dryers. As such, each move leaves you with excess in some things and a shortage in others. One of these current shortages was a living room rug. After a beloved trip to Ikea, I stand behind the Dude: It really tied the room together.

 

This March was the Lenten season, so I was inspired to kick bad habits and hold a series of personal retrospectives. The result: A realization that I waste an inordinate amount of time on personal projects that yield more headache than value. I’m now trying to divert that energy into cultivating better holistic health. I scheduled my annual appointments to get new contact lenses and an inspiration to floss. So far, I’ve been consistent enough for my gums to stop bleeding. Small wins. I also cleaned up my digital life. Rather than spending $30/month on highly customizable virtual servers to host my blogs, I switched to HostGator for a 3-year shared contract at a quarter of the price. Did I mention this post was sponsored?

 

But it wasn’t a wholly boring month. On the weekend, I explored the surrounding landscape. From wandering about Mount Diablo–the ~4000 ft mountain that overlooked San Ramon–to the hills of Las Trampas, I can now say that the idyllic rolling green hills are just as majestic to the touch. It’s a beautiful area that inspires me from the inside out.

 

February 2017

7 March 2017

February began in Schenectady for a weeklong work event. After spending time with peers, I got to ski on my first non-Michigan mountain. So, my first mountain. After New York, I flew back to my apartment in New Orleans and moved out my remaining possessions in the morning. It was good to leave. As much as appreciated the character of New Orleans, living next to Canal and Bourbon Street wasn’t a good fit for me. Too much vomit on the sidewalks, music in the streets, and crowds. If I live in the area again, I’ll keep some distance from tourist territory.

 

I spent the day driving through Louisiana toward Shreveport. I stopped at Driskill Mountain as dusk fell and capped my 24th highpoint. The relative elevation and surrounding hardwood forest impressed me. After leaving, I drove through Texas and slept at rest area outside of Dallas. It was the first time I slept in my truck in almost two years, so it was a much-needed night. In the morning, I continued across Texas, marveling at the unexpected scenery–a hillside littered in nothing but truck beds and the coexistence of oil wells, wind turbines, and beef cattle. I entered New Mexico, stopped at a curio shop along Route 66, and bought a horsehair hoodie. That night, I wimped out, got a hotel, ate at Denny’s, and soaked in the hot tub.

 

The next day, I kept trucking through Arizona. The curvy and pothole-ridden roads that wound through the snowy, coniferous mountains of Flagstaff threw me off guard. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought I was in Montana. As the sun was setting, I crossed the Colorado River to California. Interestingly, there was an agricultural border patrol. Thankfully, they permitted my palm trees and bamboo plants. The trip would have been for naught otherwise. That evening, I slept in another rest area near Bakersfield. It was incredibly windy. I could feel it against the truck as I lied down. The dull white noise relaxed me.

 

On the fourth day, I finished my 2,200 mile journey to San Ramon. On the final stretch of the trip, I enjoyed the rolling green hills–finally relieved from the seven-year drought–and the countless wind turbines they hosted. I moved into my apartment and re-acquainted myself with the Bay Area–from the bag-less grocery shopping to the self-absorbed residents. In the remaining days of the month, I settled into my new home and new job. My truck, having now earned the name “Old Faithful,” received a well-deserved break as I incorporated biking into my daily commute and default mode of transportation. With a recreational trail behind my apartment and work and a BART station no more than 5 miles away, I can reach most anywhere I need via bike. This is great physically, economically, and environmentally and something I’d like to keep up wherever I live in the future.

 

The stark contrast between New Orleans and the Bay Area is something to note. New Orleans–despite being dirty, chaotic, and rampant with questionable infrastructure–had rich culture, enjoyment, and friendly people. It was very human. The Bay Area is the opposite. It is clean, efficient, and orderly. While there is plenty to do and enjoy, the people are not as friendly–more self-important and terse in interactions–and there is little culture or identity. I will enjoy living in the land of the robots, but I will miss the humanness of New Orleans.

 

January 2017

9 February 2017

The first month of 2017 was dead. Deader than a doornail.

 

It started with the bang of a hundred amateur fireworks in New Orleans and ended quietly in Schenectady. January always seemed to move quick. Although short-lived, the month was amok with activity and change, as these were my final days working in Louisiana.

 

I finally visited the WWII Museum and learned how little I knew about the War. The establishment was impressive–architecturally staggering, historically rich, and crafted to elicit the immensity of events in the not-so-distant past. The displays walked you through countless stories and the theatre left you in awe. To say the least, my perspective on contemporary American life changed after the visit. As much as I hate prescribing “must do” activities, the WWII Museum is certainly a must do in New Orleans.

 

In my last month, I also made several trips across the river. One with family to eat at a restaurant. One alone to bike around. One to hand-deliver a t-shirt I sold on Etsy. And another with a friend. The last trip was the last ride of the night, and we got trapped in Algiers. The bridge was inaccessible to walkers, sadly, and we had to get a Uber.

 

When this same friend was visiting, we took a day trip to Biloxi, MS to swim in the Gulf. The water was surprisingly warm (for Michiganders), and seagulls and contraband littered the beach. We almost stepped on a syringe.

 

The tailgate of my truck had rusted beyond repair, so I buried it in a dumpster. It was oddly sad leaving it behind–felt as though I was abandoning a piece of me, like a severed arm. I imagine that if my arm was ever chopped off, I’d like to keep it. Seeing that it’s not a renewable resource, like hair or fingernails, it would be weird to throw it away forever. Nonetheless, the severed tailgate made reversing my truck easier.

 

A Year of Daily Videos

7 January 2017

I’ve completed my 2016 resolution: record a daily 2-second video. The result is a 12-minute movie that encapsulates my year one day at a time. Personally, it’s quite beneficial–the short clips elicit flashbulb memories of days and events that would otherwise be forgotten. This is especially true for mundane activities like driving, cleaning, and shaving.

 

This project was inspired by Cesar Kuriyama’s 1 Second Everyday, where he recorded a one-second video each day for several years. Watching these videos give a look into his life that photos or journal entries can’t quite capture. Building off Cesar’s idea, my creative contribution was adding an extra second to each video and releasing in monthly increments. Two-seconds allowed for a longer glimpse of each day and made for more elegant time-boxes–each month was a minute and the year twelve. Releasing monthly helped me keep up the discipline, as it broke a large project into more achievable chunks. Sharing the videos on Facebook and Twitter offered more opportunities for feedback and gratification, as it would spark conversations with friends and motivate me to keep filming. A few of my friends now film “minutes months” too.

 

Overall, 2016 was a good year to film. It started with a painting of God on the streets of Manhattan and ended in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Along the way, I moved from New York to South Carolina to Louisiana, started an independent press (Ugly Sapling), rode motorcycles, toured Europe, won NaNoWriMo, and learned to sleep on airplanes. Living in three very different places doing very different work and spending time with very different groups taught me that many things are very similar. For better or worse, this view has changed me. Here’s 2016 through my eyes:

 

 

 

So what’s next?

 

Besides filing 3 state tax returns (yay…), I’ll be running more experiments with Ugly Sapling, publishing a novel, and moving to California to finish my rotational program. There’s a lot I’m excited for in 2017. And I’m filming it all, with no intention of stopping.

 

Happy New Year!