Sunday, November 22, 2015

You're more patient than they are

Sam Altman at YC put together this Startup Playbook and as you might expect, it is packed with nugget after nugget of great advice.  If you are running a startup, or thinking about it, I thoroughly recommend it.  I scribbled down a lot of little notes while reading through it, but I'll include one particular one from the initial section (perhaps it resonated with me the most as I'm so early stage myself) -

Let it gooo!  Playing around with giant balloons the other week.
."..almost everyone is going to tell you that your idea sucks [...] whatever the reason is, it will happen a lot, it will hurt, and even if you think you’re not going to be affected by it, you still will be. The faster you can develop self-belief and not get dragged down too much by haters, the better off you’ll be. No matter how successful you are, the haters will never go away."

There are two things about this that made me feel like I was getting a good hard hug when I read it: 1) The 'self-belief' that I've felt swelling up inside of me over the last couple of months does not mean that I am arrogant, or self-inflated. The remainder of the playbook reinforces this, but persistently believing in your own success is essential. And 2) The haters come in different forms - sometimes they are just people who are dismissive of you because of what you do, and *sometimes* they are even voices in the back of your very own head.

My little biz is hardly center stage with any major 'haters' coming my way, but this was clearly on my mind - this is a quote from Seth Godin was one of the first things I wrote at the front of my work notepad:

No idea what the '6:30ish' note means haha! Clearly I was making dinner plans at some point.
I will share a secret with you: this song came onto Pandora (I was on the Taylor Swift channel, ok?) when I was having a rough day, a month into this gig. It made me cry with resonance and now it's my lets-do-this song whenever I need a little pick me up:

I know, so cheesy right?!  I don't care :)

PS - The playbook and Seth Godin quote are both via the ever excellent swissmiss

Monday, November 9, 2015

You already enjoy many things

Image may seem vaguely unrelated, but I took this photo yesterday thinking about the guy who left his tea on this wooden stool, right in the middle of the street. You have to give him credit for coming and going as he pleases, trusting his tea canister and seat to all of the folks passing this busy corner by.
A friend who always sends me the very best things to think about emailed me this article by Mark Manson a couple of weeks ago: 'Screw Finding Your Passion'. Reading it was 7 minutes well spent and a refreshing antidote to the swarm of seminars, pinterest quotes and self-published non-writers out there, all urging us to run into the woods and determine what our true passion is.

To borrow the subject line of my friend's email - go read it. Then this is pretty much verbatim what I wrote back -

Since I left Goog I feel like a lot of people try and find some kind of narrative about what I'm doing; that I'm following my passion, that I'm a frustrated designer who finally liberated myself from the corporate world - but that's not the case. I just talked so long about how much I didn't want to play football anymore, I decided to start collecting bugs because it was different and intriguing to me; I don't know how long I'll be doing this for or how long, or whether it will turn into something else.  When people say 'you're so lucky that you know what you want to do' I think 'yes I am lucky... but you probably already know too; you're just too tied up with financial / job / [insert something] security. There isn't anything else stopping you.'

"You already enjoy many things. You're just choosing to ignore them."

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The process

I have had the above nugget of wisdom taped to my door since getting my little business offspring into the wild, it was something that illustrator Becky Simpson said in this interview with The Great Discontent (yes I know, I seem to find all of my lady heroes via these interviews).

Building this new thing has become my joy and obsession, but I am running on 51% thrills and 49% terror all day every day.  I don't think this is a bad thing - I was telling a friend the other day about this quote "if your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough"; at the time of first reading it, it made me feel a little guilty about where I was, my comfy and only-just-challenging-enough job, but I can read it now and confirm that yes, for the terror I presently feel I am definitely living out my dreams right now.

Anyway, I just wanted to check in and say hi *hiiiii!*  Onwards with the process.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Europa Part Zwei

With the breathing space that a career change provides, I tacked on a week in Berlin and a final weekend in London before heading back stateside.  The three weeks altogether was the longest block of time I'd played tourist in awhile, but Berlin being the city that it is I felt right at home.  I read in a travel magazine once that Berlin is "the city where you don't feel out of place"; I certainly felt that on my first visit, a student backpacking through Europe, and again on this last trip.

It of course helped that I had the luxury of staying with an old Weimar girlfriend (10 year reunion!), but what really made me feel right at home was re-exploring a city overrun by designers and artists.  I'd heard a lot about its gentrification over the years, but it was so interesting to see what that meant for a city when the primary industries there aren't tech and more tech (and the wealth that comes with that).  Enter more open shared grounds, creative re-activation of spaces and good, cheap beer.

Case in point: my visit to Klunkerkranich.  This was a bar / restaurant complete with family-friendly sandpit was on the roof of a very unremarkable shopping mall in Neukölln.  I had to ask for directions at a run down dollar store to confirm that, yes, I should really just go to the top level of the parking lot and just keep walking.  I'm so glad I did!
Prinzessinnengarten was another gem of a space; a sustainably run community farm where you can come and enjoy lunch made from the vegetables grown, have a beer or just chill out.  Busy roads rush all around but you can't hear them once you're nestled in; importantly it was right next to...
...Planet Modulor!  Aka my dream store.  More than just a paper store, it's a comprehensive material store where they sell everything from ropes (above) to foam to cards and stamps and pens and packaging and even neon ribbon from the Netherlands.  I spent half a day there and considered that a huge act in self restraint *cue emoji of winged cash*.
Isn't it always zeit für brot?  Oh German bread how I missed you!  I also can't go this far in a travel post without mention of a good carb.  Not pictured: all of those dark, delicious heavy ryes I had before coming to this new kid on the block.
Succulents playing shoe adornments at Tempelhof Field - once a military base, airport and now a big sprawling mass of land for barbecues, sports and DIY gardens like this one.  The scale of it all was the startling part, it's so rare to be in the middle of a city and then suddenly be walking on broad, flat spans of land.
Obligatory photo of the canal, complete with tiny swan in the center.  What I especially love about walking along here in Berlin is that when the weather is good you see people really enjoying it, climbing over fences and making all efforts to swing their feet off the edge and sit with a beer, that always seems to magically appear when the weather is good.
Oh Berlin!  I hope it isn't another ten years until we meet again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Some changes - and Europa Part Un!

Hello again, my handful of friends who visit this little pocket of the internet.  It has been a long stretch between posts - a lot has happened since I was last here, the biggest change being that I finally cut the umbilical cord from Mama Goog, and have started working on my own thing (!)  
More on that will come soon, but before that I wanted to share some snippets from a most wonderful European trip with my family.  The bulk of our time was in France, sandwiched between England - Oxford to visit my not-so-little bro and then the requisite overnight in London catching up with friends. Onto some snaps!
My brother's college Magdalen from above - because he's a student there we got extra special access to climb up to the top of the tower - the experience was complete with giant rusty key as big as my arm to open the tower door! 
Small side note here: how did little siblings get so big?  This is a total brag moment but my bro is president of his college, so on top of his PhD he spends his time rallying for things like mandatory consent classes, free pregnancy tests and other important, necessary things for young people that are not easy to pull off.  I'm pretty sure when I was 26  I was just trying to not get fired and my big thing was whether or not I should get a fringe.  So proud of my bro!

Ok, onwards to the rest of Europa -

Palace of Versailles was as incredible as I’d imagined it to be - I couldn’t get over the scale of the gardens, we spent the good bullk of a day there but then when we looked at the map later it was like, jk, you didn’t even cover half of it.  And it was just their summer house?!  I need to find me some friends like that...
Following my instruction to ‘try to look French’ - that bag is from Bio c' Bon which is a hippy WholeFoods-type chain they have, where the milk presumably comes from even happier cows.  If you are thinking there was hummus and cheese in that bag to accompany that baguette, you’d be right.  Not pictured: the additional croissant we had ‘to sustain us’ on way back to our Paris Airbnb.  It was a <5 minute walk.
I was so happy to see so much pixel tile art everywhere!  I remember following the original space invaders in Paris a decade ago (and wherever I saw them) - I don't know if it's still the same artist but they seemed to have blossomed all over the city now.  These invader cum Super Mario flowers cropped up a few times, and I even spotted a Picasso around the corner from the official museum!
A quiet summer fruit snacking session in the afternoon.  Why is it that stone fruit always feels so much more luxurious when you take the time to cut it into segments and eat it with a tiny fork?  Gold rimmed china and being in France also helps.
And now, my parents following my instruction to ‘look French’ - at first I thought mama was defying my request with a blatantly Asian peace sign but apparently that's her pretending to smoke a cigarette ahaha!  This time we were on a little sidewalk in a town in the Loire Valley, in between chateau hopping.  Of course, croissants feature here too.
Back in London: mandatory coffee at Monmouth, Borough Market.  I know that place is a touristy rats nest on a Saturday but I enjoy it so much that I somehow find myself poking in on most visits.  Piles of fruit!  People looking charming in little aprons!  Free samples!
In conclusion: when traveling don't take any pictures of the Eiffel Tower or the London Bridge but *do* demand everyone 'look French' for you and eat lots of croissants and drink coffee.  You're welcome.

Europa Part Zwei in my most adored city coming shortly!  Au revoir until then!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Nesting, Part 11

Because I'm home again at last, and the nesting never stops (and I'm so glad it doesn't :)
San Francisco is being properly good about giving us all a real summer!  Here's a long lit evening from when a friend and I were lucky enough to snag an outdoor spot at Foreign Cinema.
The Bud Stop aka prettiest curbside florist in SF and the very same one that I walked past when I was first moving here; I remember thinking 'I really want to live somewhere around here so this can be my local florist' - and so it was. 
Wait, did I hear you say you wanted more pictures of strangers' dogs?!  This little guy (or gal?) is the latest to be captured in my greatest unpublished anthology #dogsofsf - snapped this morning outside of Plant Cafe on Steiner.  Just look at those shaggy little front paws!
Part of my pursuit to eat less animal products - I present to you vegan 'scrambled eggs': much more delicious than anticipated!  My ever excellent vegan brother got me thinking about the impact of animal agriculture on our planet (spoiler alert: it's worse than using all of the plastic bags in the world).  I still love my cheeseburgers and even eggs, but I do believe it's our responsibility to do what we can to minimise animal product consumption, when we can - hence this experiment  :)
This is a terrible over-lit shot, but I snuck out onto the fire escape again this week to get a view of our old golden girl stretching beautifully over the bay.  San Francisco, I love you.
It's so good to be home.  Happy Sunday to your corners of the world!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A little trick for hard decisions

The last year gone has been full of some of the bigger decisions I've ever made, the kinds that remind you that everything in life is a tradeoff and result in ghost ships to salute from the shore.
I don't know what you're like, but I'm definitely an over-thinker who can easily let thoughts start to run rampant in my mind when I'm mulling a choice over.  A little trick I learned to get me out of this state is to ask myself this question:

'What would I want my daughter to do in this situation?'

I've found that asking myself this brings a freedom to be honest with myself, it pulls my thoughts together with speedy maternal clarity, and snaps me out of puddling around in circles.  I think we can all tend to shuffle around the truth when it comes to ourselves, but putting our maternal (or paternal) hat on brings out what we already know to be right and best.  It also means we will make decisions that we'll be proud to tell our kids about one day, whether we already have little ones in our lives or they are still entirely imaginary (as in my case).  Pretending to be your own mama can help you realise that you might already know best.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Banana doughnut

Flicking through my photos from NYC a couple of months ago and I came across this flowchart:

Did I mention I spent five and a half years at art school?
Inspired by a banana doughnut I ate from the timelessly excellent Balthazar.  Yes you are.

Happy weekend!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Who are your top five?

I can't remember if I've written about this before, but I'm a big believer that you are the average of the five people you spend the most amount of time with (credit: Jim Rohn).  I read this recently and it follows that it really struck a chord with me:

"Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with. And the collisions and the dreams lead to your changes. And the changes are what you become. Change the outcome by changing your circle.”

Seth Godin, via the folks at my dream workspace.  Know your desired outcome, your circle and change accordingly.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Kumquat Marmalade. Or, Chopping Tiny Fruit for Hours.

If you have a kumquat tree you will know that when they are in season the fruits will suddenly grow abundantly, seemingly all at once, and you will feel like some kind of giant harvesting tiny oranges one by one.  This was the case at A's dad's farm, which led to our first delicious round of marmalade.
All the kumquats!  Faded view of our hero, the serrated knife, is also in frame.
So delicious was this Kumquat Marmalade that when our local supermarket incorrectly priced them (in our favour) this weekend, we went home with 6 more bags of these tiny orange friends.  Cue more feeling-like-a-giant-cutting-things time and we now have 12 jars of the sweet jammy stuff.

The recipe we followed is here, with some tweaks / tips taken from here because David Levobitz is the jamming king; we added a couple of limes for taste and the little serrated knife is key - both for cutting through the tough-ish citrusy skin and poking the seeds out as you do.

We had so much fruit we started measuring in bowls instead of cups.  The recipe calls for 2 cups of sliced kumquats and we ended up with 5 bowls.  Multiply the sugar, prep time and boiling minutes accordingly i.e. we went to bed pretty late.
The finished product!  Extra delicious with a hard cheese.
As you might be able to tell, the making of marmalade coincided with us playing around with a pro camera for a week, so the photos for this post are a little fancier than normal.  Hope you enjoyed!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fold your socks, ok?

I am sure the world does not need yet. another. take. on the this book sweeping the nation/s, but as a newly turned Konvert I can't help but do a little gushing, as you might expect from anyone who has recently joined a borderline cult*.  I don't even bundle my socks anymore, it's all about folding them gently so they have a chance to rest (I wish I was joking).

Following Marie Kondo's method falls into two parts - firstly discarding, and then once you've completed that you can begin re-ordering; I am almost through the first part, but have cheated and simultaneously started with some of the second.  There are enough reviews and synopses out there to give you an idea of what she's is all about (or the book itself is a very quick read) hence I thought I'd stick to sharing one particular highlight I enjoyed from adopting her methods:

Hang clothes on a hanger, if they look happier that way, and then arrange them from dark to light because “clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type, and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure.”

The 'before' picture.  If you only do one thing for your wardrobe this year...
...seriously just go, now (and I really do mean right now) and buy yourself a set of matching hangers, purge and then re-hang all of your clothes in this way.  These were seriously the best $25 I have spent this year!
Be sure to purge your clothes beforehand, according to her methods - holding each item in hand and throwing out anything that does not bring you joy and "does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely."

Ouffff - breathe it all out as you cut the fat!  Your wardrobe will feel lighter and you will too.

*A quick reminder: I have also been known to SoulCycle and CrossFit, so I am very susceptible to borderline cults in general.  Also, it should be known that I do live in a tiny studio apartment by myself; if I lived with company or moreover had bebes... well, I'll just have to report back on how that goes :)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Oh hey, Asunción

Exploring this ol' town for a spell, some snaps from the hood:
Corner store - these are everywhere!  The fresh herbs are for making tereré, and the esky is for housing the ice cream, sandwiches and other treats they sell.
Wait, did you think that just because I'm in another country I would stop taking photos of bourgenvillas?  Of course not.  I passed this rogue, overflowing bundle on the way to lunch the other day.
Piles of fresh bread in the morning sun.  These self-serve bakeries typically have a minimum purchase weight for their breads which, as you can imagine, is both a blessing and a curse for a #yestocarbs lover like me. 
We found this little guy at the farm - not pictured are his five brothers and sisters who were all piled up on top of each other under a pile of timber.  It was like my baby animal Pinterest page IRL!
Even ambulances need their chipa.  Dangerously they are deliciously filled with cheese, and some of the best places have these chipa ladies working for them who will hustle up to your car and deliver them to you hot.
More later on some things I'm working on, but who doesn't like photos of puppies and carbs in the meantime?!  Overandout internet friends  x

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Moral Bucket List

This at Buttermilk Channel was the perfect bookend to a wonderful week in that great city.
When you are at brunch with a good friend and they are so struck by an article that they urge you to read it immediately after you decide on the short rib hash, you should listen to her.  I know I'm not sitting across from you in the Brooklyn sun right now, but do go and let the words from The Moral Bucket List by David Brooks speak to you.  It is full of truths that will linger with you after reading:

"As Paul Tillich put it, suffering introduces you to yourself and reminds you that you are not the person you thought you were."

How I shivered with recognition at that.  Go now, and read more about the people we want to be.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A return to things

A couple of Fridays ago I finally got my butt into gear and signed up for a life drawing class with a couple of girlfriends - and by 'class' I mean we just dropped into a room where a model turns up at some point and you're left to your own devices.  It was a typical life drawing class - we started with a series of short poses to warm up, and then moved to sketching poses over increasing lengths of time.
Here are a couple of pieces that reminded me of just how much I both had and hadn't forgotten:
From one of the short 60 second poses at the beginning.
A couple of the longer poses - charcoal and yellow you say?  It's like every uni assignment I ever did all over again haha (private joke between me and yes, well, actually only I will get that).
I was never really big into figure drawing, but there was something deeply enjoyable about sitting and concentrating on this single craft for a couple of hours.  I was reminded of how much I enjoyed my after-school art classes, far more than piano or violin (probably because I never practiced but that's a different story) *pushes up nerd glasses*.  It's nice to return to something and discover that it still gives you the same pleasure, even if you didn't remember that it did.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bom dia!

Well, there went February.  
My birthday month also brought a surprise trip to Brazil, which is partly what has kept me out of this internet corner.  The other distracting factors were part work, pretending to go to the gym and general pontificating about my plans for 2015 without actually doing anything about it.  Case in point: one of my vague goals was to spend more time on here.
But, onto Brazil - each of the eleven days I spent there I felt like I was living in a Coke commercial, gorgeous people watching, easy open air bars - and oh the beaches!  Not since Sydney have I been so impressed stretches of golden sand and the clearest water.  We were lucky enough to visit the urban beach shores of Rio (sadly it was raining the day we went to Ipanema, so I could not recreate being the girl from my favourite song - that would have made for some great hashtags on insta) before flying down south to the quieter spots on Florianopolis and around the South.  It must be known that the latter cities are filled with the most beautiful people you will ever see in one place on this planet.  Their skin!  Their glossy hair!  The way they make me think an ankle tattoo is a good idea but really I just want their tanned slender ankles!
Anyway, now I will get to the pictures which of course must begin with the food (and I wonder why I don't have ankles like Alessandra Ambrosio)...
A pastel and my most favourite snack of all: bolinho de bacalhau!  These were little deep fried fish and potato gems of goodness that I could not get enough of.  Serve hot in an open air bar that spills out into the streets with cheap local beer that you don't even notice how bad it tastes because hey, Rio.
From the top of Sugarloaf Mountain - the stuff of postcards!  Not pictured: how much I nearly died of heatstroke that day.
Ah Brazil - where the all the snacks and the bar comes to you!  The days started to blend together at this stage, but I think this is somewhere down South.  Freshly grilled cheese on a stick was purchased shortly after this picture was taken.
There are far more glamorous food shots I could have included here, but this was one of my favourite meals - all the breads!  That big puffy semi circle was a type of tapioca bread that was sort of gummy and delicious, and those four happy little balls were my beloved cheese breads.
You know I had to do it.  What did I tell you about the Coke commercial feeling?  Ahh take me back!
Obrigado por tudo, Brasil!  My tan has faded almost completely now, but even after the few days we had, you forever have a special place in my heart.  That place is called 'countries I am already scheming about revisiting because I've only just scratched the surface and I want mangos right now'.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

But when it works

I read this via the ever excellent Meg Fee, who always manages to pluck out just the right words whenever I need them - this is a snippet from an essay by Rachel Syme, which after some snooping I found is in 'Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakeable Love for New York'.

As a friend was moving away, he told me he wanted to go somewhere where he can still build things.  "What," he asked, "am I building in New York?" I didn't know what to tell him then, but this is what I would tell him now. 

In New York, you are demanded to build yourself. The environment calls for it. You build on pure speculation, a foundation up from the salty bedrock built upon something that was there before, as many stories high as you want to go, as fast as you can get there. It is possible to fail, possible to outpace yourself, to not turn a profit, to remain empty inside with your lights still blazing for show. But when it works, what you build becomes a beacon. Here is our poetry. Here are the stars bending to our will. Here we are touching them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Stand up what

Those who know me well are familiar with my principle that you must pursue any idea that persists with you; if you have even a wink of an inkling that presses at you over time and just will not go away, then this your heart's way of saying 'hey, let's give that a go'.  I've felt a nudging towards stand up comedy since I read an article about how you can take classes on it years ago, so in a bid to stick with my own advice, this is what I've been doing for the last few weeks (with holidays in between).
There are worse places to be on a Tuesday night.
The beginners class went for four weeks, we formed a little band of newbies who after class would go for (far too many) drinks and perform for a few minutes each, in the basement of an Irish bar in North Beach.  These were off-the-cuff three minute slots at a time, on a Wednesday close to midnight, so we often made up half the audience ourselves.

Having wrapped that up late last year, tonight was my first week of 'advanced' class - these evening sessions are run by giving each member 7-8 minutes each, standing up in front of a group of other aspiring comics, trying your stuff out and getting critiqued.  Coming fresh out of the holidays I was wildly underprepared and just threw some brain fluff out there.  As always, I got more laughs than I expected, in all of the parts I didn't expect them, but it was still the roughest 8 minutes I'd had in awhile.  I'll spare you the details (largely because I can't bring myself to relive them by typing them), but there is something about standing up and trying to connect with a group of people you don't know very well, and telling them stories which you ruin by trying to be too clever and then having these strangers say you're still funny and you are still enough that is very emotional.  Anyway, this is how I ended up eating a tuna melt downtown, close to midnight on a Tuesday.

I wanted to stretch out a reflective journey home, so I opted out of calling an Uber and hopped on the muni instead.  The bus driver who happened to pick me up was quite amazingly the same driver who first taught me how to flag a bus down (i.e. you don't have to), buy a ticket and use the 3 line to get home when I first moved here two years ago and kept forgetting my cross streets.  He remembered me, and I told him all about how I've settled into San Francisco, including my latest comedic trials.  There has been a lot of growing up between bus rides.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

She is looking for it

“I can never be who I was. I can simply watch her with sympathy, understanding, and some measure of awe. There she goes, backpack on, headed for the subway or the airport. She did her best with her eyeliner. She learned a new word she wants to try out on you. She is ambling along. She is looking for it.” 

Taken from Lena Dunham's book 'Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"'.  I got a lot more out of that book than I was expecting, this being is one of my favourite snippets from it.  No, I can never be who I was, but I am looking for it.  Here's to 2015  :)