Saturday, February 05, 2011


Hi all,

This will be my last actual post on Blogspot. I have decided to enter 2011 by importing and moving my entire site to Posterous, including previous posts and comments. (On the other hand, Posterous can auto-update this blog as well, but I've decided to make a clean break.)

Erg. Digesting a 3.5 course meal at Noble Pig. B is out smoking/drinking with manfriends. Quite Saturday night is good for that sort of thing.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Helplessness Blues

image from even*cleveland (originally from BARC)

I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes
Unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery
Serving something beyond me
But I don't, I don't know what that will be
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see

The brand new single from Fleet Foxes is oh so good. It makes me so eager to hear the album, which, from the looks of it, may be even better than their 2008 release! Hear "Helplessness Blues" here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I can't wait for BankSimple, the cure to crappy banking. It was started by ex-Twitter engineer, Alex Payne. Check out this great e-mail exchange I had with the VP of Product Marketing. I honestly didn't think I would get a human response to my e-mail with my criticisms about Chase. I'm having great customer service experience already!

> Hello there,


> I'm Adam, from BankSimple. A little bit ago, you requested an

> invite for our service. Thank you for that! While we haven't

> sent out any invitations yet, we are working hard to begin

> opening up BankSimple for you to try soon.


> In the meantime, I would love to hear about what you want from

> your bank: what would your ideal experience look like? What do

> you like about your current bank, and what would you change?


> We can't wait to show you what we've been building – and to get

> your insight into how we can make it better.


> You can also keep up with us by following us on Twitter at

> or on our blog at



> I hope to hear from you soon.


> Adam



> Adam Erlebacher

> VP Product Marketing


Dear BankSimple,

I am so excited about you! For the past half year, I have grown pretty tired of my current bank (Chase). The only thing I like about it is that it has so many locations and ATMs in Walgreens. Other than that, I loathe the max transfers per month between accounts (6, after that you get hit with a fee), balance minimums, overdraft fees, limited weekend hours, and the chore of having to go through a telephone menu when trying to reach a human on the phone. Oh, and I try to avoid going into the store lest I be approached by an manager in a suit who will sit me down for 10 extra minutes to go over my accounts and attempt to hook me into signing up for more credit cards. I know my bank is a business, but can't they at least try to make the customer experience a positive one? I would like to see iPhone camera check processing done in one day, better customer phone support, no ridiculous fees, no minimums, higher interest rates, the ability to use any ATM without a fee, and if there is a physical location, non-cheesy interior design.



Dear Frances,

Thank you for your email! I appreciate the detailed feedback. As a Chase customer myself (for now), I'm very familiar with what you describe!

First and foremost, we are focused on creating an amazing experience, both online and mobile. The interfaces will be beautiful, functional, and intuitive – modern interfaces that you will enjoy using. In addition to core personal banking services such as free online bill pay, fast and painless money transfers (instantaneous to other BankSimple customers), and access to 50,000 free ATMs, we will also allow you to deposit checks using your smartphone. We consider "speed" to be a feature, so expect fast and easy transaction searches, too. And of course we will have great customer service (phone, email, and chat) so that you can always reach a human being at any time.

We won't be hitting you with unexpected fees. No monthly charges either. In fact, the only time we would charge you a fee would be if the cost of the service you request is too expensive for us not to pass on the cost (i.e. international wire transfers). In those cases, you will know exactly what the cost is before-the-fact. The BankSimple debit card will not allow you to overdraft – the card will be declined if there is not enough in the account to process the charge. Later, we will offer a small and completely optional line of credit to cover you in the case of an overdraft.

I hope that the above gives you a better sense of what our service will offer. Should you have any other feedback or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

We look forward to serving you as a customer in the not-too-distant future.



Monday, January 24, 2011


I first started seeing the Rework book by 37Signals popping up in my Gowalla items collection earlier last year. It had a neat cover, but nothing urged me to seek out more information. Fast forward to now: my group uses Basecamp as a collaboration tool, and B has been developing his own strong ideas about how profitable businesses should operate. I breezed through the book tonight, and found it to be a very readable primer devoid of business jargon on how to build a business on your passion, shed fears and perfectionist tendencies, and treat your employees and customers like humans.
As part joke part hidden criticism, I sent my boss and his boss the link, as they seem to be constantly in and out of meetings. Our last team meeting lasted the entire wedge of time between breakfast and lunch.
Rework: Ditch meetings. They tie up resources- a 1 hour meeting with 10 people is actually worth 10 hours, and a very small amount of information is actually shared, especially if no clear agenda is set beforehand.
I furtively conduct my daily blog rounds, not sure as to what the official policy is on distraction, but knowing full well that a person cannot work 8 hours straight without taking breaks. And I always get my work done.
Rework: What good is it to the company to ban Facebook/Youtube? Employees will find another way to waste time. Realize that people needs breaks to stay productive.
I yearn to be in an environment where I can get to know my coworkers, create an understanding between us on how each of our roles fit into the process, and feel free to disagree and offer constructive criticism. Right now we mind our businesses and act busy most of the time.
Rework: Keep the company small, so that employees will get to know one another more intimately and not be afraid to share ideas. Large companies have employees that treat everyone politely, because they are all strangers.
And many other takeways, including personal ones. Like, act now on inspiration. Otherwise, it will evaporate a few days or a week later. Don't imitate others. By taking this shortcut, you forgo the part where you develop hard-earned understanding, which is priceless.
Besides 37Signals, Twitter, Google, and some local startups, I wonder if there are any other thriving companies following this stripped-down philosophy. I would love to know : )

What else have I been up to? Preparing for my first photography show, that's what. Roshan 35, all 35mm photography show with 3 other photographers at Space12, rad poster designed by the brilliant BW/GF. I was pleased as punch to be invited to be a part of this, and after some initial anxiety over which photos I was to choose (they all started to look crappy), I got into gear and drove my negatives over to the esteemed Precision Camera for prints. And they came back looking absolutely drab! After doing some comparisons on Flickr and some old prints, I realized that Walgreens automatically applied a sort of 'S-curve' to all my photos, enhancing them with more contrast and a red hue. This made me question the validity of my film photography history. If they only looked so stunning because of a template edit, then I had nothing to hold onto. But after some external affirmation, I think I am starting to accept the natural, more moody look of my dusky shots. You'll see what I mean if you come. : ) Come! 7-11 PM @ Space 12. Other photographers featured: Evan Wilson, Andrew Stevens, Gideon Tsang (pastor of Vox Venaie).

Sunday, January 09, 2011

January Links

Austin Outdoors

top images from lululemon

On Friday, I left work early to go hiking with Rachel. We drove over to the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, right off the bustling Loop 360. It is a small haven of woods and stream nestled in West Lake Hills, surrounded by gaudy mansions and shiny corporate offices. Once you step out of your car, you get a huge whiff of the trees, as if you were miles away from the city. This is something that Austin should really be proud about- how a few dedicated people fought to preserve natural spaces in the city and won. Hell, the Greenbelt is a 7 mile rocky trail that runs straight through town and weaves around numerous neighborhoods. The Wild Basin's trails are only 2-3 miles long, but when we climbed to the top, we were treated to commanding views of the hills. It was a great opportunity to get my heart rate up and strike up a long conversation with a good friend. I know I can always count on Rachel to go outside with me, as I do not know anyone who loves the outdoors more than she does. We plan on visiting Bright Leaf Preserve soon, another protected natural area just northwest of where I live (so central!).

These past 2 weeks have been filled with disc golf playing. It is basically a disc equivalent of golf, with different sized discs based on distance and par for each hole. A while back, my friend Tyler notified us that he would be playing at Pease Park, since the city was going to tear down the disc golf course. Having never played, I joined him and a few out of towner friends for a round after work. Even though I had limited skills, it was a complete blast! I was treated to a leisurely tour of the park, which I had only ever previously zoomed by in my daily commute, did a fair amount of walking, and soaked in the gorgeous fake winter weather. Since then, B and I have each purchased our own discs and gone to 2 other courses in town. My beginner luck has worn away, and I spent much of yesterday afternoon rolling up my chinos and wading in the freezing stream at Bartholomew Park fetching my disc. At least I was getting some use out of my neglected Chacos, noted B. Disc golf is all about technique, and less about strength. I do not have the technique down yet, so it's more practice for me to regain the initial glee I experienced when playing. It's a neat sport, very low impact and great for when you want to hang out with friends but do more than just sit around.

image from photobucket

A new show B and I have been watching is the 2nd season of New Scandinavian Cooking, hosted by Tina Nordstörm on PBS. I think they slapped "new" on there because she likes to use American produce like avocados, cherry tomatoes, shallots, cucumbers and red apples to complement her dishes. This show is unlike most cooking shows we have become accustomed to, as Tina is always outside and doesn't take a huge bite out of all of her creations and emit forced "mmmms." So far, we have seen her dive for cockles (clams) and fish for mackerel, items she immediately prepares after setting up her makeshift cooking table. She has also gone hang-gliding, and clearly isn't afraid of having her hair messed up or outfit rumpled on camera. Her English is pretty good, and we entertain ourselves by mimicking her slight, endearing accent and occasional odd phrasings. Personally, her liberal application of dill and common usage of shellfish hints at my possible difficulty of enjoying Swedish cuisine, but it's a refreshing and education show anyway. At least B would love eating Sweden.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Good Start to a New Week

image from themagazine

So, I'm 2 days into my new job at BHI, and it's been a pretty positive experience. Even though I am hourly, I am treated like a full-time employee in that no one is looking over my shoulder to make sure I'm occupied each minute. Also, my team has a great connection and people are either joking around or speaking freely about office politics. And I get to bounce around in a sweet Herman Miller Aeron chair. It's in the MoMa Collection, for Pete's sake! There is also much work to be done. The amount of information about messy processes I have let in on is somewhat overwhelming, I must admit, but I have ample time to play around and figure out how to eliminate efficiencies so that we can all use our time for better purposes. That's my job in a nutshell- to improve on the current processes. It all boils down to the main underlying goal of all business actions: to get more profit. In fact, everyone in any position or industry is responsible for keeping this in mind. Stagnation and complacency is the mark of a bored, burnt out, or defeated worker. Not good. Do people reserve the same amount of energy and determination to effect a similar result in their personal lives? Should they? Should I pore over my financial documents, charts, and ledgers with the aim of reducing waste, charting overspending, and maximizing savings? Or should we be looser about living and seek to be happy and not so intensely attentive to every single detail.
Same thought goes out to entrepreneurs, who are always looking for the next big moneymaking thing. Is this a hobby of some people? What is the point of making more and more money? That is something I cannot wrap my head around. Make enough to live on, enjoy fancy food, travel occasionally, build some savings, clothe the children and send them to college. That's really all I desire monetarily. Don't want a huge sum looming over prodding me, "How are you going to manage me for the rest of your life? Don't screw it up!" Simple is better.
It's a real luxury getting to work 2 jobs. Because today I worked all day, felt a bit tired and used up, and cheered up at the thought of going in for only a half day tomorrow. Having some variety is good for my soul and attention. I don't have time to frequent the grocery store every day anymore, but I can go every other day. I swear, Natural Grocers has become my second living room, or a late afternoon destination (since I can leisurely walk there from our house).
On an unrelated note, I have been getting some heartening comments on my other blog. I am aware that it has a readership of sorts, but receiving positive feedback is truly instrumental in encouraging me to keep it up. Half the time I wonder to myself, "Why am I even keeping it up? There are a slew of fashion blogs and websites with similar items. What do I have to offer to the landscape?" I love to do fun things just for myself, but how much more awesome it is if other people find them useful or interesting.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

You Gotta Try

Mulling over this quote by Teddy Roosevelt. Oh worthy cause, which one are you for me?

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."