"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

On Risk

mountain biking

Last Saturday I was in Texas giving a talk at Dallas Drupal Days. The morning after I got up early to go mountain biking with Tom and Dave from Level Ten — the conference anchors; thanks guys! — and their friend Peter, who really set the pace on the ride. It was a lot of fun, and as you can see I had a few brushes with the terrain. Turns out my street biking skills don't translate super well to the offroad context in terms of maneuvering, but I was mostly able to keep up and the road rash (tree rash, actually) was totally superficial.

It got me thinking about risk. I've got a fake tooth stemming from a pretty messy bike wreck in Brooklyn back in 2003, and my chosen mode of transport has gotten me into a number of other other scrapes. I commute daily on the gauntlet of Market street, which is a chunky combination of traffic, potholes and trolly tracks, and enjoy the daily challenge, but the odd moment of jamming between busses aside it doesn't really raise my hackles. By contrast, riding up and down creekbeds and over roots and rocks felt downright dangerous.

The perception of risk is in part about experience; urban street riding is all about tracking multiple changing variables — the timing of the lights, the position and momentum vectors of traffic, the odds that someone is going to open a car door, etc — in the context of relatively flat/even/vanilla landcape, whereas mountain-biking is about maintaining momentum and clean lines of action as the landscape throws challenges at you. Both activities carry risk, but the one I'm used to feels (relatively) safe.

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Public Interest at the Planetary Scale

I'm always surprised when I meet someone who shares my fuzzy vision of globally networked democracy as the plausibly positive planetary prospectus.

This idea is out there, in the air. People sense kind of intuitively that easy/instant global communication will probably change the way we govern ourselves, but even in the thought bubble of San Francisco it's not something that seems to get a lot of direct attention.

I recently had a couple of run-ins, one with a future-focused magazine curator in SF and another with a Berkeley PhD turned Goldman Sachs wizard in New York. It got me thinking about why it's so surprising to find these types of connections.

Tech people tend to be lower-level in their interests — debating the bits and bytes of different languages, products, techniques and companies — and the business-end of the change we're living tends to get a lot more media attention than the broader social implications. Not surprising given the cultural context we inhabit, but still kind of a shame.

To the extent that "big picture" ideas get much play on the nerd scene, people seemed more taken by the Singularity, the computation-driven quasi-apocalypse. It's a neat sci-fi diversion — an interesting enough Dark Future, good for a pulpy novel or two — but doesn't strike me as imminently practical model for anticipating or piloting the future. Other big-think doomsayers fixate on Peak Oil, or the collapse of the global economy, etc.

While I'm as big a fan as anyone of Red Dawn disaster fantasies, I don't really believe preparation for total societal collapse is a wise use of resources. Human beings always believe the end of the world is coming, and we tend to be wrong. The future will bring change, no doubt, but the operative question (to me) is not "how can we ride this out in a compound?" but rather "how do we get ourselves to a new Golden Age?"

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In Which I Ponder My Career Path a Bit

I'm at the beginning of a shift in my career. For the past two years I've been building a product, creating this thing we call Pantheon — which, if you're curious, you can hear me go on about; nerd alert! — and it's been great. I'm still actively working on that (deployed some code today; booyeah!) but I'm also starting to focus more on public communications. In addition to talking (hopefully at a more measured pace) to interviewers, I'm starting to blog more for work, and get back into doing some public speaking, which is exciting.

And hard! And scary! I was up until 5am with butterflies in my stomach before that keynote in Munich. It's been a while since I've felt like that.

It gets me thinking again about that age-old question, just what would you say you do here? The reality is that I need to let other people who write code full-time rise up. I'm a Founder and at some point I need to get out of the way of the two or four or six people who will do what has been, heretofore, "my job". They may not know all the details as well as I do, or be able to walk the full stack front to back in their sleep, but they'll learn. Plus there will be many of them, which means that they'll be a lot better at coping with the workload than singleton me.

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Run Koenig Run

I'm belatedly beginning some physical training. While I tend to do just enough gym time to stave off corpulence, I'm gradually getting less and less in shape year after year, which is an alarming trend if extrapolated to the logical conclusion. As my father remarked the last time I visited, "you're looking rather prosperous, aren't you?" And he's got a point. I ain't getting any taller, so there's only one direction left to grow.

As a sort or rally-point for change, I went in with my roommates to run the Tough Mudder, which my hombre Frank recommended to me last year. I think the macho-attitude is a little over-the-top, but the event itself seems pretty cool, and my other friend The Girth ran it last year and said it was a good challenge.

However, I've never been a runner. Ever since I had some achilles tendon issues playing basketball as a young teenager, I've eschewed it as a form of exercise. However, I have been in very good physical condition before (thanks, Experimental Theater Wing!) and have maintained some of my cardiovascular savoir faire with my enduring love of the bicycle. I know that this is possible. I just need to be good about training for the next three months.

My first real run reveals that I've got a long way to go. My legs are in need of conditioning, my form is all over the place, and I don't know how to pace myself. I'm using Runkeeper to do a little self-data analysis, and my first time out was not terrible. I think maybe I over-did it with trying to go up a big hill to start, and we'll see what I can do with a little experimentation in the route.

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Belated Meditation on Turning 33

A few weeks ago I finished reading Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad" on the plane, coming back from a visit to New York. It was sort of the perfect book for the moment, an innovative interlevening of lives over time, a meditation on meaning and culture and music.

This is what it prompted me to write.

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Consider This

Consider the the times of our lives, this 21st Century.

Consider that it's never been the case in the history of our species for civilizations all around the world to be ascendent.

Consider that for the first time, we face a truly common set of challenges.

The story of our lives on this earth is about the integration of the people of the world in a way that was completely unimaginable to our grandparents. We are in the very early stages realizing our shared humanity in a meaningful rather than symbolic way. We are on the verge of recognizing the great common cause — the reality that we all share the same suddenly small sphere of organic chemistry hurtling through space at unbelievable speed around an enormous nuclear fireball — and embarking on an era of renewed purpose and discovery.

It is our nature to explore and discover. We look deeper and further into the material world and make great scientific and technological discoveries. We look within ourselves and discover greater virtues, and share ever wider the fruits of liberty, equality, community. This is what we are supposed to do.

Which isn't to say we don't have troubles. Clearly we do — but most of those troubles are within ourselves and one-another. They're solvable with time. The problems without are imminently manageable if we face them together.

There are more counterarguments to this than can be mentioned. It's true that sometimes it feels like we're squandering the moment on trivia and tripe, but some of that is just a feeling, and some of it is made real because the feelings exists in the first place. The beginning of something better always starts with believing that better is possible.

Consider that in our lives, there will be more literate, connected, free people than ever before. Consider what we might do together.

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On The Bubble

One of my beats is inequality. If you read this old blog or you get my tweets, you know I frequently highlight news or analysis about the disparity in wealth and income in the US and elsewhere.

Recently I had cause to look at it from a different perspective than I'd before, from someone worried about all they had slipping away; the "I'm going to leave less to my kids than I had" worry. Led to some halfway interesting thoughts.

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Burn The Town Down Blues

So I posted a reference on the Twitter machine to this song I love from a concert some friends of mine recorded years and years ago in Portland at Reed College. There ain't no online version, so I thought I'd share:

John Henry Crippen — Burn The Town Down Blues.

Hopefully John Henry don't mind me postin' oldie-but-goodie MP3's on this old blog. If you like this you can listen to snippets and buy the whole double-length CD of Tom, Dan and John's legendary performance from CD Baby: Blue Language. I'm clearly no objective source — these are my friends — but I think there are many true gems in these tracks.

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I'm moving to Pantheon, which has been delayed because I didn't want to deal with the legacy hand-roll that was the first three years of this now decade-old (so old!) website.

Update: Moved! I even found a few bugs in documentation to fix. Hooray dogfood!

While I was at it I went ahead and ported the venerable (CivicSpace powered!) Vagabender dot com as well. Turns out updating CivicSpace/Drupal 4.6 to run on Pantheon was actually easier than dealing with ten years of random cruft and symlinks. Who knew!

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In Which I Badmouth the Scene for a Minute

There's a lot to like, even love, about being an entrepreneur. There's agency, opportunity, creativity, the singular challenge and potential rewards of doing something different and new. I wouldn't want any other kind of career.

That said, there are things I really don't love about the Startup Scene, and I've had a stressful week. At the risk of bemoaning what are undoubtedly "first world problems" (and then some), I want to write a bit about what I find irksome about the Valley. Writing helps me process, and maybe my scribbles will help some fellow traveller somewhere down the line.

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