vague, but exciting

the porous city - people - me

/

/

email me

/

about

I built a thing
Flagging for Android

1. Build an app for an obscure message board
2. ???
3. Beer!

Pyramid

Photo of an inverted pyramid made out of metal and fabric, installed in the desert

A thing I did with friends. Metal by Daniel, fabric by Calli. Special thanks to Mary.

Two punctures, one failed tube, and Daniel pulled through all the tough parts

New machine setup
Since I've done this twice in the past 24 hours ... roughly in order:

  • SizeUp
  • Dropbox / Google Drive
  • Notational Velocity
  • Freemind
  • 1Password
  • Spotify
  • Adium
  • MS Office (meh)
  • Omnigraffle
  • VLC
  • change Terminal font to Consolas 13
  • .vimrc
  • .bashrc
  • log in to all the websites
  • defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/Screenshots; killall SystemUIServer

not sure about f.lux any more

Rain check
Worked late on a project at work that requires integrating with a lot of other products. Spent time reading requirements docs, trying to understand how it might fit together. It's possible this isn't going to work out - people might decide the risks aren't worth the reward. That's actually ... fine. Take feedback, iterate, make sure we're headed in the right direction. But figuring out the direction sooner is better, so I missed the Wire concert.

Trying to sleep, one of my roommates was up late singing along with her laptop in another part of the house. Not sure how you can hate on that, so I went with it. Still got up early and met up with the Mission Cycling guys for the pre-dawn Headlands raid. Haven't been climbing a lot so I was one of the last ones to the top of Hawk Hill. View still spectacular, bombing back down still an adrenaline rush. Water started coming down, just a few drops at a time, enough to have me rushing home, acting antisocially through the Wiggle (which I really gotta stop.)

Dinner tonight, a walk tomorrow, signing a lease Thursday, happy hour and a birthday party on Friday, no clue on Saturday.

Just wanted to get a picture down of what it looks like when it's working out.

"Also, speaking of decades, just as a note, as a person checking back in on your life, you have been saying you will move to New York since 2003. A decade, Lukas, A decade!"
I don't really have a good comeback to this. I had my reasons, but yeah, certain dreams have suffered as a result. It's really a shame that we only get one life, isn't it?

Report
I was going to write a report about riding in the LA marathon crash race, luckily Alex already did.

Lock and load

Finally
Update your bookmarks: after over ten years of a URL I hated, we're moving to one slightly less bad.

Henceforth find me at theporouscity.com instead of inevitablebacklash.com

They point to the same place, links to the old URL won't break, but I'll be happier if we just move on.

I'm second from the left

2012: the year in riding
A graph of all 5,025 miles I rode in 2012, excluding rides in street clothes. Weight of the lines based on how often I rode that stretch of road.

Full view:
a graph of my bike rides in 2012

Northern California only:
a graph of my bike rides in northern California in 2012

I wrote a thing
Posted on the CrowdFlower blog on Apple Maps data quality compared to Google Maps and Bing. Thinking about doing a followup with OpenStreetMaps.

And hey look, it got picked up by an LA Times blog. Haha: Apple hasn't responded to requests for comment.

New home
If this works, we've moved.

I made a thing
We were sitting in the Botanical Garden in some kind of faux-classical bit of architecture, looking at a gray sky.

"I wonder if it's sunny in the Mission ... "

isitsunnyinthemission.com

2012, part one
1. Break 9:00 on Hawk Hill
2. **********
3. ********
4. Write a track

pardon me, explosions incoming
Computer Building, Aetna Life and Casualty, Hartford, Connecticut, 1966 - Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo Associates





Except this time I'm not an engineer
The line for the open bar wasn't as long as you'd expect, but the bartenders were mixing complicated drinks designed to impress, so there was a wait. Eventually a circle formed to make space for the belly dancer, pushing the bar line away and moving people closer to the bouncy castle, the fire engine red Tesla and the indoor waffle truck. The music went from hip-hop to something vaguely Middle Eastern. I didn't stay for the fire dancing, but it must have been a trick to thread the poi balls through all the hanging paper lanterns.

Joseph and I goggled.
"Do you have any idea what this company does?"
"None."

Next night, Sichuan food.

"Hey Kasima, know any engineers looking for work?" And we laughed and laughed and laughed.

And ... yes, I'm at a startup, again, in a converted industrial space in one of the highest-crime areas in San Francisco. Venture funding inside, 10% unemployment outside. Let's not fuck up.

I have not forgotten
I am in the office at 6:52 after an all-nighter, the kind where you're playing catch-up and scrambling to meet a deadline. Embarrassing. And I'm listening to UB-40, so doubly embarrassing. But that's not why I decided to write. I decided to write because I just remembered my first and only visit to Parrotfish Records in St. Thomas, USVI. My mom took me because she knew I was a music geek. The color scheme, the decor, the stuff on display, all Jamaican. Not the proprietor, clearly a mainlander, middle-aged and sour-looking. I didn't know much about reggae or dancehall, so I asked for some dub. For my trouble I got a five minute lecture about how nobody in Jamaica listens to that "drug music" any more. And after lecturing me on "drug music" he tries to sell me some dancehall! The record sleeve was probably covered with five-pointed leaves! The fucking nerve!

Still breathing
I started a new job. I will reassert my right to post random stuff to my blog .... now.

Leaving One Acre Fund
On March 11th I leave One Acre Fund and fly from Nairobi to Frankfurt, on my way back to the USA.

It feels a little like leaving Microsoft in 1982 might have if you had an inkling of the future trajectory of the company. The core model in Kenya is much more mature than it was eighteen months ago: we now have three districts with 3,000 to 4,000 clients each, all generating performance numbers that in aggregate are steady and predictable. We have very promising trials underway to achieve better economies of scale and more impact for our clients. When I first got here it felt like building a car - suspension, frame, engine, speedometer and steering wheel - while the car was already on the road. Now it feels like we have the platform and we're tuning for performance. We have incredibly ambitious growth targets (seriously. ambitious.) and I believe we'll reach them.

So it's obvious I have mixed feelings about this. But when I brought up the subject of leaving with our executive director in October, I mentioned that I've been overseas for two years, and working in operations management for, now, eighteen months. I've got a better idea of what I want in life, and it involves building a life closer to family and friends, and going back to a career with a heavier analytical component. One Acre Fund's strength is a laser focus on field results, which means living here and staying devoted to implementation. There are a lot of people that are happiest doing exactly that (did I mention how rewarding it is to see a good harvest?) so I'm not worried about One Acre.

It's not the end of my work on behalf of One Acre Fund, either. I'll be fundraising, blogging about their progress and in general not shutting up about it whenever the conversation turns to development. I'll also be doing some volunteer country scouting if the timing works out.

The next set of opportunities is looking exciting too, though. More later.

Yesterday
Driving the RAV4 on the road near my house, a small Kenyan girl stands in the middle of the road, arms out from the her sides, chest puffed out. I just keep repeating to myself "I am not the guy driving the truck in Avatar, I am not the guy driving the truck in Avatar..."

Vorsprung durch Techno
In the interests of total uninhibited geeking out, I'm going to start doing all music-related Twittering from @lukasmusic. Don't get used to all the substantive news so far, it's mostly going to be me raving about new beats.

In Nairobi
Yesterday, as my plane taxiied to the gate, I saw a man bent over sweeping a red carpet. "Interesting, I bet that's where ..." the plane continued and my gaze passed over a rigid line of about 150 red-suited members of a Kenyan army honor guard. Kibaki landed right behind me, and his motorcade fouled traffic the rest of the night.

Today, in a developed-world bubble at Art Caffť, sipping wine and enjoying near-broadband. Art Caffť is frequented by expats and wealthier locals. The expats are mostly Westerners, with some Chinese people thrown in. My guess is that most of the Westerners are NGO workers and most of the Chinese people are working at for-profits. I wonder who will have the greatest impact on Kenya in the long term?

On taxi drivers: once you know the fair price for a trip, it's fun to hassle the taxi drivers hanging outside of tourist hotspots (Soi Rambutri in Bangkok, Westgate mall in Nairobi.) Really pointless though - the drivers know that if they wait two minutes, a bigger sucker will come along.

I was "interviewed" about One Acre Fund by members of the Global Swadeshi development forum. Very bright people with great questions, check it out.

The gender composition of our Bungoma East field staff
Field directors
Male symbol

Field managers
Male symbolFemale symbolMale symbolFemale symbol

Field officers
Male symbolFemale symbolMale symbolFemale symbolMale symbolFemale symbolMale symbolMale symbolMale symbolMale symbolMale symbolMale symbolMale symbolMale symbolMale symbolMale symbolMale symbolMale symbolMale symbolMale symbol

We're working on it.

Back to marketing
We're in the middle of repayment. Wait, let me back up. One Acre Fund gives loans to small farmers, in the form of seed (maize, in Kenya) and fertilizer. We give them training on how to use it, they plant, harvest, and pay us back in cash or maize.

So we're accepting cash repayment. We have about $200 in our budget to give incentives for the groups that finish repayment first. Patrick (Kenyan field director) and I are sitting around brainstorming ideas. It's hard, because you want to give them something of substance, that'll generate income over the long run, that a group of six to twelve farmers can practically share.

Pigs? Too expensive. Chickens? Tough to share, and how do you decide who gets the chicks, or income from eggs?

We land on trees. Tree seedlings are super cheap and can be harvested for firewood or sold as lumber. We figure out how we can pay to transport the tree seedlings to farmers, and still have enough in the budget to give each group 200 tree seedlings. We choose a tree that benefits soil fertility, isn't so thirsty that it's going to starve other crops for water, and can be harvested in 2-3 years.

We're pretty pleased with ourselves, and settle in for the Friday field managers meeting. We mention the incentive to them. They nod politely. We ask what they think. They look at each other, then look at us.

"It would be good if we could provide t-shirts," Vincent says.
"Sorry - farmers would rather have One Acre Fund t-shirts than 200 trees?"

The field managers nod vigorously.

In the cannon but forgot the helmet
Jake is brewing espresso in the kitchen. I'm wrapping up some projects - our motorcycle taxi program, and sourcing 15 tons of bean seed for our short rains planting - to hand off to other people. Tomorrow: up at 5, drive to Kisumu, fly to Nairobi. Two days in Nairobi, hopefully including an on-site inspection of a potential bean supplier.

Monday: fly to Dubai. Get on a plane to New York. Get on a plane to San Francisco. Take the BART to Millbrae and then get a cab to Paul's. Pick up a car. Drive to San Francisco. Crash at Ruth's (we're at early Wednesday morning by now.)

Next few days: what to wear to Stephen and Mary's wedding? Where to eat brunch?

Scylla and Charbydis ... and spelling
Intermittent updates to my Twitter feed are sucking up the energy that would go to blog posts. And energy reserves are not generally high, as I'm going through an exhausting learning process.

My management experience prior to joining One Acre was as a case team leader at Monitor Group. It was a little like playing traffic cop: everything was moving along fine on its own, I just had to make sure it was pointed in the right direction. A lot of young associates came in with some consulting experience already, and (although we never thought about this) everyone came from the same cultural background, making communication a cinch.

Our staff here are also bright and hard-working, but they have much less in common with me. So I've learned things like:
  • Avoiding abbreviated, idiomatic English
  • Delivering tools, training and feedback that are crystal clear
  • Ensuring timely data collection to get a birds-eye view of our progress
  • Getting plenty of time in the field, before and after rollout, to make sure I actually understand what's going on. Rolling out a new field initiative without testing it with a field officer first and getting their feedback is just asking for trouble.

Given the opportunities for miscommunication and the impressive things our staff are capable of, it's tempting to think that execution problems can just be put down to poor communication - but sometimes it just takes energy and drive to get staff to assign the proper importance to tasks. Either way, whether communication or motivation is the problem, it seems like the name of the game is management by persistence.

The part that relates to the title, if not the rest of the post
Oh, right. Scylla and Charbydis. Being dumb, it was only recently that I thought about that image as a narrative version of the Greek ideal of moderation. Clever chaps, the Greeks. Way to work that pattern into our thought. But also: where is this myth misleading? where does moderation fail, as an ideal?

Today

Kicking tires
  • Tomorrow: my second consecutive 8am meeting about motorcycle repairs. (Don't worry, mom, I'm running a mototaxi program for our field managers, not driving one myself.) These things are either prone to breakage, heavily used/abused, or our drivers are trying to skim off the top. So I'm going to start checking out bikes they're bringing in for repair myself.
  • Next week: I give a talk on a year-long income and expenditure survey we're conducting with over thirty of our farmers. We're having them record what they eat every day, and once a week a survey agent records what they earned and spent in different categories. Jake designed the survey before I took over the project, so I can't take credit for it. Or maybe I can try. Anyway, I'll post some of the summary results here.
  • Yesterday: an Ultimate game that no one was really satisfied with. The season of long rains (hopefully) started today, so future Ultimate games will probably be even sloppier.

Thoughts following a trip back to the States
Sitting at a cafe in the Dubai airport right now, waiting to board a flight to Nairobi. The eerie feeling of occupying a 3D rendering, from the ribbed arch overhead to the identical rows of red chairs.

  • People are anxious about the downturn, but some, I think, are a little gleeful. It's like having school called off for the day. People used to work 60 hours a week just to keep up, to chase this huge and ever-growing carrot. Now things have slowed down and expectations are lower, and no one has to feel bad for not getting rich quick. They can direct their energies to everything they've neglected. The underground life is seeping through the concrete.

  • Just spent three weeks in the US reconnecting with a bunch of people. It was good to remind myself of how much I'm linked in to. Now the opposite - it'll be another six months or so before I leave Africa again. I'm looking to narrow my field of vision.

  • New Year's, for once, wasn't disappointing. Lesson: get a good group, start small, leave plenty of options. Come to think of it, not a bad strategy for 2009.

Some things that have happened, are happening, or might happen later
  • Irrigation kit sales have been so-so. 25% of the farmers that bought seed and fertilizer kits have gone on to buy irrigation kits (which cost four times as much, but then, what else were they planning to do with the seeds during the dry season?*) We'll continue sales for the next couple of weeks, we'll see how many of the farmers who have been saying "I'll have the money next week" will come through.
  • We had a party. Did you know that steel wool+fire+oxygen = decent fireworks?
  • Added some new projects to my list. So far I've been working on special projects - limited trials of possible changes to the core model. I'll still be working on them next year, but I'll also get some experience just running the core model.
  • A cat is being spayed outside my window. Erp, apparently it is (was?) pregnant.

*This is just me being frustrated. Our farmers have pretty chaotic lives, it can be hard for them to stick to plans - and we (originally) gave them a short time window in which to purchase kits.

Questions
Took a boda-boda (bicycle taxi) from the office to my house. It's 10 shillings (about 13 cents), 15 if they go down the dirt track to my door. Almost all the boda-boda guys have the same kind of bike: imagine a depressing Soviet-era steel bicycle with a cushion over the back wheel, festooned with paint, streamers and slogans painted on the mudflaps. Everyone pedals at the same plodding pace, since they have one gear at some ridiculous gear ratio, suitable only for Olympic sprinters.

This boda-boda driver spoke English, which is unusual.

"Hey, brother. Hey."
"Yes?"
"How can I have an easy life?"
"Sorry?"
"How can I have an easy life? I have been given a hard life."

He laughed, grinned, and kept at his sad, slow pedalling. I don't think his smile was faked. It's amazing how happy people are here, despite everything.

Talked to one of our survey agents today about a baseline survey we do when we enroll farmers - a sort of census and inventory of assets. Apparently it's pretty quick and easy to go through with a farmer.

"They don't have problems with any of the questions?"
"No ... well, sometimes they can't remember the names of all their children."

The view from Kenya
Obama's family is from a town a few hours away. Today: Obama t-shirts, Obama songs, cheers and handshakes from passers-by. I visited one of our farmers and he and another farmer discussed the election results. A radio was on nearby, playing Obama's acceptance speech interspersed with commentary in Kibukusu (the local tribal language.)

They admired the smooth handover of power in American democracy. They complained that no one in Africa gives up power without a fight. They agreed that it's not good enough to have good projects, they must be implemented well, and worried about Obama's inexperience. However they agreed that Joe Biden, with his 35 years of experience, would be a good advisor for him.

The best story comes from Sid and Melissa, who back in September talked to their cab driver in Nairobi about the election. The normal stuff: he asked who they were going to vote for, they said Obama, he went off on a five minute speech about how great Obama is. Then he paused.

"But McCain is strong too!"

Back to earth
So I came up with what I thought was a clever solution to one problem. No amount of cleverness will save me on the irrigation project, however, if any of the following things go wrong:

  • Field officers do a poor job of delivering sales or training messages
  • Kit pre-work doesn't happen on time: delivering components, preparing 400 seed kits, cutting 800 irrigation hoses, punching holes in them exactly 45cm apart, and cutting 70,000 emitter tubes
  • Farmers can't come up with the money on time
  • Farmers prepare their seedbeds incorrectly, and their seeds fail to germinate
  • Repeatedly attaching and detaching the irrigation hoses from the jerry can causes the connection to weaken and leak water
  • The cloth filter fails and dirt clogs the emitter tubes
  • Farmers do a poor job of lofting the jerry can, and water doesn't travel all the way to the end of the hose

I'm trying to prepare training and plans to prevent this stuff, and backup plans to deal with it if it occurs. As you can tell I'm not comfortable with my progress. In the meantime I'm having weird food dreams. Last night I dreamt I was eating a hamburger and some people threatened to take it away from me. I pulled a gun on them.

Bragging
I had a good idea today. I'm responsible for our motorcycles program: we bought some motorcycles, and we're going to let some independent drivers rent them from us. They're also required to provide one free return trip to a One Acre Fund field manager each day.

Somebody else had the idea and did the profitability analysis. I'm not in love with it, but since it's mine now, I have to figure out whether the original rationale holds: is it reducing transportation costs for field managers?

Problem: how to get good data on usage? Drivers don't want to give free rides, but will probably say "of course I gave a field manager a ride today" anyway.

And for field managers ... frankly it's not that convenient. Each location only has a couple motorcycles, and drivers might be busy or have already given their free ride that day. But the field managers know they're supposed to use them, so they might just say "of course I used the One Acre motorcycle."

Solution: give vouchers, with random serial numbers, to the field managers. They give them to the drivers, and the drivers write their names on them and give them to One Acre when they're submitting fees. Barring a motodriver-field manager conspiracy, we'll know exactly how much field managers are using the bikes.

Getting back on the horse
Sorry about the lack of updates. Have been recuperating from some tropical flu (I'm fine, Mom, it wasn't anything serious.) Frustrating to have just gotten here and suddenly get sidelined; now I know how Greg Oden felt last season. Coffee'd up and sorting through the wreckage of my work plan.

While I was laid up, the boundary of my world was the One Acre place here in Bungoma. The other expats are friendly, thoughtful and fun to be around. However, the risks of the all-expat diet are becoming clear. If you spend all your free time with people, books and movies from home, you're inevitably going to get a pale imitation of a previous life. I'm still hoping for better than that.

Picked up one of our $5 irrigation kits yesterday - basically a plastic hose that connects to a jerry can, with little tubes to guide water to the plants. Hoping to sell a few hundred of these in time for farmers to plant during the dry season. Lots of little implementation questions remain - will farmers have an extra 20L jerry can around to actually get the water with? (the one provided with the kit will have a hole in it) Will farmers have a way to loft the jerry can enough to get water flowing? (probably - most will have a chair or something similar)

I don't have the field intuition yet to feel my way through these questions, but I'm glad to be enjoying the details. This week we roll out with a pilot location, so more to come.

Check out my sister's paintings! Here's the one that I had above my bed (she's holding onto it for me until I get back to the States.)

A painting of Kool Herc

Three Surprises
My first field visit was last Tuesday, to the Chola site. Jake (expat staff), Andrew, Moses (Kenyan staff) and I visited five farmers and handed out logbooks for them to record some of what they eat and buy. Limited trial to test the logbook format before we roll it out for real. We left the house before 9 and got back a little after 12.

The first surprise for me about Bungoma wasn't the size, it was the density. The main roads are a constant stream of bikes, trucks, and matatus (overstuffed minibuses.) Shops, markets and restaurants are crowded full. I figured boredom would be a problem, peace and quiet wouldn't. Guess again.

The second surprise came when Jake and I were walking between houses and he mentioned that a lot of our farmers don't do much during the day. I'd have expected people experiencing chronic hunger and the resulting health problems and infant mortality to be working themselves to the bone.

Then I remembered a line from the One Acre reference materials; paraphrased, "our farmers are not used to being rewarded for their effort." They lack capital for quality inputs (seed, fertilizer.) They lack the expertise to plant and harvest most effectively. And it's difficult for them to get their outputs to an interested buyer.

Those three basic things are what we offer to farmers, and are the reason One Acre Fund exists. And here's the third surprise: One Acre is close to sustainability. In fact, at current maize prices - which are, however, unusually high - farmers are paying back enough to cover our operational costs and then some.

Alright, there was a fourth surprise: field work is fun. Visiting farmers is better than frowning at a laptop. Speaking of ...

And go
Landed in Nairobi the night of the 13th. Up early the next morning for a bumpy eight-hour ride west to Eldoret; two hours by taxi later and I'm getting picked up in Bungoma by another expat staffer. Hellos, a trip to the grocery store, some unpacking, and by 6pm I'm crashing in my bed under a mosquito net.

We live in a little compound with three houses near the center of town; One Acre's been growing, so there's now another house just down the street. Don't let "compound" confuse you: it's nothing elaborate, there's barbed wire on one side but this is not your typical expat bunker. There is a dual-tank reserve water system that I spent some time learning about today. Playing house ...

Looking forward to later this afternoon when I find out what kinds of projects Andrew (founder) and Veronica (current Director of Program Innovation) have in mind for my first three months.

Where are you moving again?

View Larger Map

The blue marker is a town called Bungoma.

Final shore leave
Just got back from the desert, am now spending a week in Minnesota with family. On September 12th I take a plane to Nairobi, followed by a bus to a town called Bungoma, to start a new job with One Acre Fund. A little busy until then.

Last week Kristy and I headed into Gerlach to make a water run, in a big Budget truck loaded with empty 55-gallon drums in back. We stopped at Sylvia's place, which has a potable water hose right next to the tent where she sells sunscreen, beef jerky and blinky lights. Sylvia also has a ranch further out, where she keeps livestock and has a license to hunt mountain lions.

Kristy, innocently: "and what do you do with the mountain lions? Catch them and release them?"

Sylvia enunciated her reply clearly: "I shoot 'em and kill 'em dead."

In praise of separation
This discussion in praise of idleness prompted me to think about how the Greeks (according to Hannah Arendt) separated their activities into two parts, labor and work. Labor is those activities required to support life: getting food, shelter, etc. Work is basically political activity: arguing, voting, taking part in the life of the city.

I've struggled myself with how to achieve deep alignment between my values and my work, with the assumption that it's best to do one thing that is simultaneously my job, my passion and my push toward a better world. Having a corporate job that pays, and doing non-profits on the side, looks like a lesser alternative.

But the Greeks had an entirely different starting point. For them, taking money for political activity would cheapen and degrade the experience, and put your motives under suspicion. The basis of a political life is the freedom to reason and act apart from pure self-interest. So they serenely and proudly built on the very separation that I've been wondering how to eliminate.

In case you were wondering
Burning Man was awesome, and you should go.

Spring equinox

The sun is out.

There's a rock paper scissors tournament downtown this weekend.

The beat just dropped in the track I'm listening to.

75% of my MySpace Top 8 Friends are beer.

I'm slouching in front of a computer screen, listening to electronic music, in the under-furnished offices of a startup. Yay it's 1999!

Christ that was eight years ago. Eight.

Slaving away near the sin mines
I'm now spending a few days a week working for a company in the Flynt Building. On my floor is a mysterious room.

Just throwing this into the ether: I would snort broken glass to get my hands on a Rising High "FACELESS TECHNO BOLLOCKS" t-shirt.

I am getting Sorcerer's Apprentice-level attention from sexy MySpace spambots. It's clearly only a matter of time before some poor guy brings a hot girl home from a bar in real life, and then for pillow talk she's like "CHEAP V1AgrA GREETINGS LAGOS BANK TRANSFER".

I fucking hate January
Kid on sled on snowless hill
There is nothing good about this month. It's too cold. There's no sun. The holidays are over. If January was a gift you'd return it. Shit, all the smart animals skip this part of the year completely while still burning fat.

(Yeah so I have problems with February too. I'll keep beating on this topic until we get some changes around here. Like, pool party weather. Or some sort of yearly government-subsidised migration to the southern hemisphere. No justice, no peace.)

RETURN TO LA - RIDDEN HARD AND PUT AWAY WET - BACK TO A BETTER WEIRDNESS
Six days, motherfuckers!

7G iPod with enhanced support for colocation
So I'm in DC for a while. I forgot one very important thing in my car, on the roof of a parking structure near LAX, inside a glass-steel bubble, under a 24-hour heat-cool cycle. God, I am bereft.
only for ears

woo summer

weekend plans - going up-country - electronic camp music

train over highwayTaking the train through southern California is a strange, foreign luxury, like having a sommelier pour your drinks at a football game. Most of the trip has been through densely populated areas, so the driver's been leaning on the horn (or the conductor's been hanging on it, or whatever) most of the way. The train tracks don't skirt the cities - it's a constant level of sprawl and we're just cutting through it. Mostly, though, it's the novelty of public transportation that makes an impression - you've given up some of your God-given auto-driving freedoms to sit on this train, and in exchange you get to sit and relax for a bit.

books to read
  • amazon wishlist
  • hm, should i read the Dark Is Rising series again, or will it disappoint me?
  • the art of looking sideways
  • book on the underground railroad
  • Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles
  • the unconsoled, ishiguro
  • a dream of wessex, priest

2005: the year in cities
Los Angeles, CA
San Francisco, CA
Tucson, AZ
Boston, MA
Cambridge, MA
Saint Thomas, USVI
Sao Paolo, BR
Salvador da Bahia, BR
Recife, BR
Washington, DC
Black Rock City, NV

Wait, is that true, did I not visit New York at all last year? Jesus.

Santa Monica has the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. Of course, I've seen them all from inside my office...

Songs of Innocence, Introduction
You are 'regularly metric verse'. This can take
many forms, including heroic couplets, blank
verse, and other iambic pentameters, for
example. It has not been used much since the
nineteenth century; modern poets tend to prefer
rhyme without meter, or even poetry with
neither rhyme nor meter.

You appreciate the beautiful things in life--the
joy of music, the color of leaves falling, the
rhythm of a heartbeat. You see life itself as
a series of little poems. The result (or is it
the cause?) is that you are pensive and often
melancholy. You enjoy the company of other
people, but they find you unexcitable and
depressing. Your problem is that regularly
metric verse has been obsolete for a long time.


What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

to read
Anatomy of Criticism by Northrop Frye
The Art of the Novel by Ian Watt
Art and Illusion by E. H. Gombrich.

After 24 hours without coffee, life becomes meaningless.

Radiohead's weblog is exactly what you'd want it to be - lo-fi, tossed-off, a buncha pics and late-night, stream of consciousness bursts from all the bandmates. Thom being arty. They all seem like lovely lads with good chemistry between 'em. I'm sorta pessimistic about the new album as a result. I remember all too well how cool it was to be watching the webcam pointed at U2 in the studio - and then they released Pop.

You will receive email confirmation of your order shortly.
So I just ordered all 11 of the Analord records.

I'm actually thrilled to be back into Aphex again, somehow it helps me feel more whole again. I loved him beyond reason for the longest time, and when I stopped feeling his work it was disheartening, literally, in that it suggested that my emotions were fickle, not connected to substance in any important way. I spent years living in his world and then - nothing? So reconnecting with this stuff has sort of strengthened my feeling of identity, like I'm reconnecting to my 20-year-old self.

Ironically, it was another Warp record that triggered this little avalanche today, Jamie Lidell's Multiply. I read an obnoxious set of posts from Momus chastising Lidell for abandoning the revolution and cashing in on his avant-cred by recapitulating the styles and gestures of the masters. Infuriatingly on-the-mark.


And that's what I love about the best Aphex, it's not trying to be anything else. It's not entirely correct to say that's it's forward-looking: a lot of his best melodies are wistful child-like stuff. But it's imaginative and compelling, like a new organic thing.



So given the fact that, based on what I've read, this whole series is a self-consciously retro move on RDJ's part, I could be setting myself up for a lot of disappointment, drukqs-style. But I found just enough favorable reviews online (some from surprising sources) that I started to get excited about the idea of wading through 11 slabs of afx vinyl.

And what pushed me over the top, I suppose, was a loyalty to me circa 1998, when I immersed myself in a sound, subjected myself to the discipline of new genres. Which is the opposite of what I'm doing now. But the idea of force-feeding myself academic electronic music, or classical music, or anything else really, is not appealing to me right now.

But in the future ... well, anything's possible.

Irish bed & breakfasts are the best. Any place that instructs you to get your room key from the bartender definitely has your best interests at heart.

ok i'm sorta spoiled
My boss is handing out copies of Tufte's "The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint" to everyone in our group. Pretty subversive given that our company is built on slides.

bring back email
I miss email. IM has replaced it for most of my online social interaction. If you chat to someone for five minutes every day or two, there doesn't seem to be much point in spending an hour writing an update on the last month of your life. I miss using friends as an excuse to sit and reflect.

i got pranked
(18:46:07) mactheosx: Ilxor?
(18:46:10) Lukas: ?
(18:46:20) mactheosx: ure weird lol
(18:46:40) Lukas: huh. still blank.
(18:46:55) mactheosx: i just got my new laptop today, i'm excited lol
(18:46:59) Lukas: oh
(18:47:02) Lukas: nice white font
(18:47:13) Lukas: glad you like the laptop
(18:47:15) Lukas: yeah
(18:47:15) mactheosx: oh =-O
(18:47:17) Lukas: me ilxor
(18:47:31) mactheosx: I understand
(18:48:30) mactheosx: Your not talkign
(18:48:43) Lukas: i'm a bit busy at the moment
(18:48:55) mactheosx: busy causes stress, and thats not good lol
(18:49:02) Lukas: i agree!
(18:49:13) mactheosx: uh huh... sure lol
(18:50:18) mactheosx: is there something u want to know about me?
(18:50:40) Lukas: like your name?
(18:50:43) Lukas: that'd be nice
(18:50:49) mactheosx: lol your funny
(18:51:18) mactheosx: haha, FunnyMuffin.com has really funny pictures. have you ever been there?
(18:51:38) Lukas: er, no
(18:51:50) mactheosx: well, maybe
(18:51:50) Lukas: i'll put it on the list, tho
(18:52:07) mactheosx: ure weird lol
(18:53:08) Lukas: right, i'm weird. you're writing in all white and won't tell me your name!
(18:53:09) mactheosx: uh hello? why aren't you talking?
(18:53:24) Lukas: cuz i want to finish my work and get out of the office
(18:53:35) mactheosx: i am NOT your babe...
(18:54:14) Lukas: um
(18:54:14) Lukas: ok
(18:54:24) mactheosx: what?
(18:54:52) Lukas: you said you weren't my babe
(18:55:06) mactheosx: leave me uot of this. i did nothing wrong
(18:55:22) Lukas: you're a bot, aren't you?
(18:55:36) mactheosx: im not a bot, lol did u really think i was?
(18:55:51) Lukas: heh, prove me wrong
(18:56:01) mactheosx: ugh
(18:56:17) mactheosx: You have been talking to a computer! One of your friends is reading the whole conversation and laughing it up right now! GET EVEN! Have the bot talk to all your friends by visiting chattingaimbot.com

Wow, February really sucks. Every year it manages to catch me off guard with its badness. I'm trying to figure out a way to express my loathing of the second month without doing any actual work, stand by.

ok:

a few days ago
REC → GRU → DFW → LAX, EDT → PDT, R$ → US$, 1N → 10W, KXLU → Public Enemy, "Welcome to the Terrordome". Hi Los Angeles, nice to be back.

Dylan wants to know what else is as good as BoingBoing. I couldn't think of anything off the top of my head, but I'm going to track the sites I visit today and see what happens. (These are all sites I visited by keying in a URL, not while clicking around.)

Slashdot
AskMetaFilter
BoingBoing
kottke.org
Gizmodo
Engadget
Terra Nova
Crooked Timber
Haddock
Slate
(a bunch of World of Warcraft sites...)
Something Awful
I Love Everything
I Love Music

So I ordered an iMac, which is supposed to arrive around the end of the month. Now I visit the Apple support forums every day, so I can do things like check out pictures of someone else setting up their iMac. What's wrong with me?

to load onto ipod
Orbital, In Sides
Underworld, dubnobasswithmyheadman
Aphex Twin, Come To Daddy
Michael Mayer, Fabric 13
Luomo, Vocalcity
CCR

Figuring out what I load onto my iPod first might be a good way of figuring out what my favorite albums are.

I met Gisele BŁndchen today. I was dropping off my roommate's cat at the vet, she was dropping off one of her four dogs. Since we don't have a cat carrier, the cat was in a cardboard box. With a Clue box (Simpsons edition) taped to the top to hold her inside. It was a little embarrassing. Gisele listened while I explained to another pretty girl why I had such an unusual cat carrier.

harvard theater database 2.0
I don't remember doing all that shit.

(ok, that Revisionist History poster was pretty kickass)

ALSO I had a birthday party and here are pictures.

fortune cookies
I've opened two fortune cookies in the last couple weeks. At some point early in the interview process, I got this one:

PEOPLE FIND IT DIFFICULT TO RESIST YOUR PERSUASIVE MANNER.

Now, while I'm waiting on pins and needles to hear back, I get this:

A TEMPTING PROPOSAL WILL SOON PRESENT ITSELF TO YOU.

Whoever's got the sense of humor, quit it already.

It's going to be slow around here until I sort a few things out. Have a dig through the archives.

my birthday party
Ben blogged about it. I'm not sure he appreciates how much effort I put towards entertaining everyone.

stolen from ilm
My next album is going to be called "I Swear To God I'm Totally Going To Kick Your Ass"

today i placed an ad on craigslist
"wanted: cute girl to watch french new wave films with"

First in a series. Feel free to suggest more.

Talking to Danah last night I started wishing I had a real weblog. You know, where I write things. I dunno though. Minnesotans aren't supposed to be opinionated.

Walken1
Christopher Walken says Ladies are your
trouble!


"Okay....look....friend. You've gotta stop
thinking about the girl. She...she lied to
you- your family knows it. Look, I knew that
stings, like a wasp, like a wasp with teeth,
baby! Here's some walking around money. Take
it from me, go and get yourself a new suit.
Not one of those JC...Penny jobs, but a good
suit. A nice fabric, like Wool. Get yourself
a wool suit and enjoy yourself. See a
cockfight, anything, pal? Look, you're number
one."



What advice would Christopher Walken give you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I dreamt about Andy Warhol last night. He carried a Fred Astaire cane and said he was running for president.

I'm moving to Los Angeles in four weeks. This is a chase scene and I'm jumping onto the next speeding car.

Lukas (10:04:55 PM): i can't believe how long ago the first underground party was
Lukas (10:04:59 PM): I'M SO FUCKING OLD
Lukas (10:05:04 PM): hey
Lukas (10:05:13 PM): if you put the space in the wrong place (as i originally did)
Lukas (10:05:15 PM): it's
Lukas (10:05:20 PM): I'M SO FUCKIN GOLD
Lukas (10:05:26 PM): i'll have to remember that
bex (10:05:26 PM): GOLD
bex (10:05:31 PM): yes
Lukas (10:05:47 PM): i will undoubtably make everyone sick of that joke as we move closer to death

I had a dream the other night. I was supposed to be doing this one thing, see, but instead I kept going the other way: through forests, up hills, across fields, more forest, saying to myself, "I'm almost to Tucson, might as well keep going." I wanted to get to Paul's for some reason.

You will live in Shack.
You will drive a red Ducati.
You will marry Jean and have 2 kids.
You will be a house-husband in Vienna.

playmash

me: "he's best when he sticks to melancholy tracks with weird drum noises."
me: "come to think of it, that describes about half of the music i like."

reading list
my family and other animals
toop, ocean of sound
yoga for people who can't be bothered to do it (?)
burke
wodehouse, uneasy money
Alexander of Macedon, a historical biography by Peter Greene
waugh, decline and fall (?)
schumpeter, 'capitalism, socialism and democracy'
seabiscuit
auerbach, 'mimesis'
walter benjamin, 'illuminations'

Amazon.com wishlist

I'm playing at Hibernia tomorrow (Friday). In Boston? Come. Otherwise, I'll be recording, and posting the results, good or bad. (Yeah, didn't happen. The manager of the bar decided he didn't feel like opening that night. At around 9pm, apparently.)

On the plus side, summer is an excellent time to have all your plans shot to hell. It's impossible to remain permanently pessimistic with this much warmth and sunlight. And after you've become reconciled to an entirely different year than the one you'd been imagining, it's just possible that the teacup will jump up and reassemble itself. This time I got lucky.

Cory and I got kicked out of the 4th of July. Doesn't affect our feelings, though. God Bless America.

I just had so much fucking fun spinning at Signals and Systems. For my last mix I went from Pita's "Get Out" to Curtis Chip's...uh, the last track on Zod #4. Fuck yeah.

My friend Etienne is in town. Check out these photos of him I took with my digital camera!
[X] [X] [X]
Oh, that's right. I lost my camera.

I thought if I charted my productivity day to day I might be able to shame myself into working faster. This doesn't seem to be working. In the first place, I quite frequently lie about how much I got done on a particular day. In the second place, if I didn't get anything done, putting down '2' for the day isn't quite grueling enough. Time for something more extreme: at the end of each day I'll write down exactly what I've done and my plans for the next day. Unfortunately, since much of the information I'm working with is proprietary, I won't be able to make this diary public. Too bad, would have been a nice way to induce better work habits.

Incidentally, this is just the sort of artificial, self-directed personal growth effort that made me puke as a teenager. I suppose this is growing up.

My set last night was awful. I recorded it. Why? Why not give memory the space to work, to fail? Memory's failure would be my opportunity to turn it into, at least, a mediocre effort. But since I have the tape...

Scared? Yes, I am. Beautiful spring days always seemed pregnant with...something, now it's menace. I keep reminding myself that we're not the first to go through this, that the Beats did their thing back when new houses came with bomb shelters. During the Blitz pieces of London would just blow up, with no warning, because the V2 rockets came in too fast to be audible. But people still ate at cafes and had sex with strangers. People still go to nightclubs in Tel Aviv.

At the airport, flight delayed. And that gig I mentioned is looking highly provisional. That is, I'll still be at Vertigo with my records, sipping free drinks, but I only go on if enough people show to fill up the dancefloor and then some. Apparently, the lounge was drawing too many people away. Heh.

11:11pm, and I'm at work. And I'm glad; recently I haven't felt worthy of the fun I've been having. Pacing around the office, talking to myself, scribbling uselessly on a whiteboard...coffee!

Update: 12:44am. Still juggling many mental balls, but their orbits are becoming more erratic.

1:43am. Progress. The fog is slowly clearing.

Yay! A gig! May 21st, 11pm-2am, for Chasm at a Boston club called Vertigo. I'll be playing in the chill-out lounge upstairs. My set will be micro/tech-house, like the Cellar gig, but more relaxed and less quirky.

I wish I could say this was because I got off my ass and started promoting myself, but I just woke up yesterday and found the invitation in my inbox. Not that I'm complaining.

Good Christ, there's another Lukas Bergstrom in the US. I thought I was the only one outside of Sweden. Not only that, he lives in San Francisco. He probably works for Google and dates Nicole Kidman, too.

I've long had this juvenile fantasy that the sullen clerks where I buy my records would recognize my taste in music and welcome me as one of their own. Last night it actually happened. They were playing Pepe Braddock's mix of Iz and Diz's 'Mouth'; I asked what it was, and he handed me the sleeve: "House record of the year." We started talking, and before long he was handing me records to listen to, saying "where is it, it couldn't have been sold, nobody ever buys good music in this store" and gratifying stuff like that.

[14:38] Lukas3030: but it's friday...get to leave work for a few days...get to sit in my room...rocking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth...
[14:38] maltedmonkey: word
[14:39] maltedmonkey: i get to leave early too

I'm walking to work Monday. Three kids are ambling down the middle of the sidewalk. I'm in a hurry, so I split the trio, mutter 'excuse me'.

"My man got a pink shirt on."
I turn around. "Salmon. It's salmon-colored." Oh, you saw that Friends episode, too?
"I look at it, I see pink."

I throw up my hands and keep walking.

There are no traces of bad weather left in Boston. Expected high for tomorrow is 91 degrees Farenheit. There's something sinister about all this sudden sunlight and warmth. Going outside is like walking into some weird philosophy thought experiment: "How do you know you experienced six months of winter? What if those memories were implanted in you by an evil scientist?"

"Here, have a cream pie . . . hey!"

This weekend I visited my friend Charlie -- Charlie's been a friend since the 5th grade -- and his fiancee. While I was there, I found out I get to help plan his bachelor party.

I wonder if the 1945 edition of Emily Post's Etiquette I just got on eBay will have anything to say on the matter. This is going to be a rigidly correct affair from top to bottom, you understand.

The party's in August, and to be honest I'm a little nervous about the whole thing. Mostly, I want to strike the right tone -- I want the party to be memorable and story-worthy, but I don't want to do anything that would make Charlie too uncomfortable to enjoy himself. And, damn, it's part of the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends in the whole wide friggin' world, I want it to be perfect.

vivez sans temps mort - Lukas Bergstrom
This is Lukas Bergstrom's personal site and weblog. Read more about me here. New posts on an irregular schedule. Mostly, it's my personal bookmarks and annotations, with some consideration afforded to visitors. I also use it to post dj sets. You can email me at lukasb@gmail.com.

see also:
me on twitter
what i've been listening to
pictures i've taken


syndication: rss 2.0

I've been listening to my sets from the Advocate and the Cellar over and over. It's torture, but it's instructive. I lost the plot at some point during my Cellar set: the track sequencing just became random, and my beatmatching skills disappeared. The Advocate set, the set that I kind of tossed off, turned out much better. Dance sets (like the Advocate, unlike the Cellar), though, it's always easy to put together an emotional arc. With idm, what, I move from melancholy to playful and back?
Actually. Hmmm....
Anyway, I'll be posting both sets in the next week or so.

The death clock says I've got until Monday, January 15, 2052 to figure stuff out.

(this one was written around February 2001)
[omitted]
Actually, maybe not. As much fun as that kind of anger-fueled writing can be, I think I'll leave it in the past. The curious can check out the old site for themselves.

Apparently I'm the kind of person that kicks dogs. I experienced this epiphany after lashing out at a Dalmatian puppy that jumped up on my leg during breakfast. I know, I know -- boo, hiss.

Words you never want to have directed at you in combination:
  • arrears
  • situation
  • initiate
  • notice
  • statute

Played the gig. People seemed to like it, and my mixing wasn't awful. Still, I'm not happy with the way it jumped around from track to track, rather than flowing smoothly. The tracks I mixed didn't sound bad together, but I'm not sure if anyone besides me could discern the logic behind my track seqeuencing.

I'm playing here tonight. Come.

Ok, I give up. My cell phone and my beautiful new digital camera are gone forever. Still, it wasn't a totally wasted night. I walked up to the turntables at one point and asked Derrick Carter if he wanted a drink. He drinks Cuervo and Red Bull, turns out. After I delivered the drink he called me back to thank me and shake my hand. (starstruck)

I don't suppose anybody happened to find a cell phone and a digital camera last night in the vicinity of the Phoenix Landing.
Sigh.

I've been seized by a sudden desire to repost the random scraps of writing that were on my previous site. Unfortunately, most of them are bitter screeds against ex-girlfriends. Better stamp them with creation dates to prevent any confusion.
Anyway, thank you, Wayback Machine!

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