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Mount Umunhum opening at last

In 2004 I headed up Mount Umunhum for the first time, hoping to conquer my last Peninsula summit. Unfortunately I was thwarted by the private land which blocked the road, tantalizingly close to the summit.

Thirteen years later, and thanks to lots of hard work by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (donate here =) and the voters of Measure AA last year, Mount Umunhum is finally set to open to the public for the first time on September 17.

The Grand Opening ceremony is fully booked, but starting September 18 the summit (and the road there) will be open to the public. Exciting!

In other news, the famous red barn familiar to riders of Highway 84 West will soon become part of the new La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve, with 6 miles of hiking trails. Great news.

The rise of everyday writing

Something easily forgotten but remarkable when noticed–we write more as a society today than ever before. An excerpt from Clive Thompson’s new book:

Every day, we collectively produce millions of books’ worth of writing. Globally we send 154.6 billion emails, more than 400 million tweets, and over 1 million blog posts and around 2 million blog comments on WordPress. On Facebook, we post about 16 billion words. Altogether, we compose some 3.6 trillion words every day on email and social media — the equivalent of 36 million books.* (The entire US Library of Congress, by comparison, holds around 23 million books.)

And what makes this explosion truly remarkable is what came before: comparatively little. Before the Internet, most people rarely wrote for pleasure or intellectual satisfaction after graduating from high school or college.

“Go to page with similar content”

A new feature in Google Chrome seems to be analyzing the entire web for pages that mirror a broken link. Check it out by visiting this now-deleted page in a recent build of Chrome. “Go to page with similar content” links you to this page, which hosts the document I was looking for.

I’ve spent a lot of time organizing this site, and every time I change the structure the links break. I think I’ll just let Google handle it from now on.

The Walker Library of Human Imagination

Best. Museum. Ever.


The Walker Library of Human Imagination.

Jay Walker, founder of Priceline.com, has collected an amazing set of items that represent human ingenuity. 3 stories, mood lighting, carefully curated for maximum creative stimulus. At TED 2008, he gave a historical walkthrough of some of his favorites.

What I like most is that this library so clearly reflects Walker’s own perspectives and the connections he sees. I’d love to walk through the libraries that each of my friends create, and I’d love to create my own. To me, this blog is my current library, and hopefully I’ll make it easier to “walk through” soon.

For now, though, take a tour of Jay’s:


Birthday updates

On my homepage, I describe myself as a “28-year-old designer”. Sharp-eyed observers will notice that’s now inaccurate–I turned 29 on Sunday. So for the past few years I’ve logged in shortly after my birthday and updated the number manually.

This morning I started to do that and remembered that last year I’d grown weary of the process and coded it this way:

I am a <? echo (date(“y”)+20); ?>-year-old designer

So while my homepage will always lag a bit behind reality, for a December birthday this works pretty well. At least until I turn 120.

Lots of book notes coming

We did some spring cleaning this weekend (yes, I know it’s September) and I’ve got a huge stack of books that I’ve read but never written out my notes for.

So brace yourselves, here come the notes.

Blending several blogs together

Following on my RSS blending project, I used the RSS2HTML script to display all the feed items on my blog’s index page.

It has the minor drawback of relying on the hourly cached RSS feed to display items, which means that new items won’t show up immediately. Hopefully my throngs of fans will be understanding…

Blended RSS feed

Inspired by Kottke, and necessitated by a current project, I’ve rolled all my online writings and creations into one RSS feed to keep track of them more easily. If that happens to also interest you, you can find that feed here.

The next step is to do similar things to the front page, and then the rest, of this site. That should be possible using the same great scripts I used for this.

Warning, Unfinished Work Ahead!

I’ve got quite a few entries that have sat in the “draft” box long enough; at the same time I’ve wanted to build on their ideas but feel that I can’t until I post the first entries. I know this contradicts my new posting mantra, but I still have trouble sharing unfinished work. The perfect is the enemy of the good, I know…

I think in general it’s good for me to feel this way. My tendency is to give up early on things that are difficult, and when I publish online, I find more incentive in finishing what I’ve started. The new concepts I’m exploring are bigger and more uncharted than others I’ve encountered, however, so I’m taking a long-term view of the process. Doing that allows for intermediate steps to remain “in progress”…

So here come a few unfinished items, hopefully followed by more conclusive articles that build on their ideas. But maybe not…this new stuff is hard for me to understand, reaching from business to philosophy, urban planning and technology; anyone out there reading, feel free to comment and help me out.

A One-sided Conversation

An interesting corollary to writing on this site has been the growing difference between what my friends who read the site know about me, and what I know about them. By no means do I have an extensive readership, nor do I desire one–I’ve often wondered how much I would have to censor myself if lots of people read this; I already do to some extent. I also do not often write about things personal to myself, like emotions or personal relationships, instead using this place as a brainstorming forum and a design playground.

But just as Bryan Boyer’s Global ID Card defines a person by where they have been and want to be, knowing someone’s thoughts is much more identifying than their age, location, height, weight, or any “personal” fact. It’s like having one of those “deep” late-night talks in a freshman dorm–except that because so few of my real-world friends do the same, this conversation is one-sided.

Of course I don’t expect everyone to write down their thoughts and make them available publicly. That’s a choice I’ve made to aid my memory and allow others to comment and help shape my thinking. If others don’t need the same help, kudos to them. And there is still the non-trivial technical hurdles to get over, something I’m working on in several projects, and that is getting better by the day, but that is still unduly difficult.

But while I acknowledge these things, it is still frustrating that I have lost touch with close friends who have moved away, and exciting that I can know and follow the story of people I don’t know well from the real world, but who write online. The potential is impressive, and the “wasted social capital” of both missing new friends and losing old ones is tragic.

An article in the Guardian tells a story that reflects the situation of everyone knowing about you and you not knowing about them:

She asked if I wrote poetry, so I then explained to her about the blog and I gave her the address, which perhaps wasn’t the best career move, and she started reading. I found out one day that she’s been online and read through the whole archive. And so when I saw her after that I felt very strange, because she knew everything about me and I knew virtually nothing about her.

“Strange” is a good word–I can’t expect this of everyone, and I’m not angry about the discrepancy, but it’s strange to see an old friend who knows exactly where you’ve been intellectually and not know the same about them. Strange and disappointing.