Alive and free
So many people asked why I would go to Tokyo to "relax", as it's known to be a pretty "crazy" city. When asked what I was going to do, I'd say, "not much." When I come here, now, I don't come to do anything more than basic, simple things. Simplicity is a state I achieve rarely when at home.

Eating amazing food, walking a lot, sleeping well, taking care of myself, visiting parks, nature, watching passersby. Taking the time for a long bath or hot springs (onsen), a facial mask, slowing to a pace where it's possible to wake up and take time to drift through memories and dreams, having time for reflection. 

Don't get me wrong – I love home, and the life I live there, but there is something different about people and their pace of life here. In the US, we would never make "a day" of visiting a mountain, at least not in such a way. Buying a bento lunch, taking the train to the base of the mountain, waiting for family to arrive, taking the cable car up, eating lunch up high, hiking through the trees, praying at shrines, brushing incense smoke over our heads, pushing a stone wheel round and round while chanting "purify my senses", taking photos, browsing the various stores selling delicacies along the way, buying pickles at a market, eating an enormous tasty ice dessert... 

While up in the mountain I had to mentally stop and check myself as I felt something was wrong -- I felt too peaceful. Not normal, as if I had suffered some sort of something or other. Well, maybe a little jet lag and steady stream of green tea were compounding, but, still -- not normal. But wonderful -- I was just at perfect, perfect peace. My friend Junko and I stood at the train station, waiting for the next one to arrive and take us home. I was just beaming, beautiful weather, easy breeze, light shining through a valley. Pure bliss. Time to go home and make dinner while we smile about the day we had.

The mountain is still inside the bounds of Tokyo. Tokyo is a place of contrast -- peacefulness intermingled with crazy-life-pace, shrines between skyscrapers, greenery versus concrete. My friend Junko and I are staying in a hotel in Shinuku -- the area with all the lights, tall buildings, an unbelievably huge train station, busy crowds, featured in the movie Lost In Translation. The hotel, however, is peaceful -- the contrast outside almost makes it more so. When I leave, however, there is a different kind of peace. Getting lost in the sea of people, restaurants, parks, shops.... The Japanese, even in Tokyo, are, at least in some ways, more subdued. People respect each other, and are kind to each other. I can walk here and feel totally safe. The news consists of earthquakes and the creation of cartoon character statues, as there is very little crime. 

Tokyo is accurately depicted as a place where one can easily become lost -- even feel lost, and lonely. However, after investing time into this place and some wonderful friends who live here, it has actually become a peaceful place to find myself, again and again. 

Career path/search lessons learned
Alive and free
 I don't need to be a drone in a big, enterprisey company to excel in my career. I will be the agent that makes my career -- not my company.

Location + salary. I don't need to move to France to explore Europe. I can work remotely. Plus, socialist countries have lower salaries....I had three phone interviews in the last two days with a company in France, who is pretty international and thought to be a bit more wage-competitive, only to have them say that the initial salary requirement I gave them was about 35K higher than what they could pay. Waste of time! I could do loops back and forth to France for that much money. I already took a major pay cut for my last job, and I'm not going to do it again.

Money. It facilitates good things. A comfortable lifestyle is worth working for. The last few months were not comfortable. They were incredibly uncomfortable, because of money issues, not getting paid / being owed backpay, etc. On the other hand, there was a time I was working two jobs at once, and earning a huge monthly salary...but I had a panic attack from all the stress. Several attacks, actually. That was unhealthy. There is a healthy balance between work and life. I'm healthiest when I work hard, then play hard, and can fully separate the two, and have good amounts of time for the two.

Teams. I loved working in a team at my start-up company because I loved the people I worked with, in a flexible, relaxed environment. That hasn't always been the case. Teams are just there out of convenience for a company to produce what it needs to produce. When deciding where to work, a team environment shouldn't be a distinguishing factor, unless it's my former team. 

Freedom. Where am I in my life? I'm still very young, not tied down to anyone or anything, but more aware than ever that the Twin Cities are my home, my home base, the people here and my parents across the river are my family, my network is here, my support group is here. I did think of taking a vacation away from everything and spending a year or 6 months in France...but why? Why move? I lived and worked from Tokyo for a month. I could do that again. Anywhere. If the reality of some of these jobs I'm interviewing for allow that, then why not? I could work for a local company here for 25K less than what I'm targeting...but why? I love flying solo, or at least being involved with a company that values me enough to grant me the freedom to do so, fairly often, and a local web design firm doesn't sound like such a place.

Entrepreneurship. I want to create my own company. Maybe companies -- plural. I don't have the financial footing to do that right now, because of my last job...but taking a remote job with a higher salary could allow me to regain the proper financial footing. I have plenty of ideas, plenty of leadership capabilities, and now I have start-up experience and contacts, which is really invaluable.

Career path. I was a C-level executive, do I need to stay on that path and build it? You can't really be a C-level executive (CTO / CIO) remotely, and the Twin Cities doesn't really have any of those types of jobs, at least not right now, especially not in the type of technology I'm looking for. Well, there was a lead / project manager role that I applied for, that was somewhat in the right professional domain....But, why do I need to build a CTO career path when I could build a CEO career path? I'll start my own company, and be good at it. I don't need an MBA or another CTO opportunity to do that -- I started my first business at the age of 16, and have had enough experience now that I'm fairly sure I can do things right. Most of all, I know I have the skills, knowledge and connections to start a business *sustainably*, which is not the case for most startups, and is why 9/10 fail in the first few years.

Time. How much time do I want to spend working? That is a serious question that I can ask, now. There is a 20hr/week contracting gig that seems rather tempting. I'm currently doing a gig where I can work *up to* 15hrs/week. A 35/hr workweek sounds absolutely amazing. I'd choose that over a 40+hr workweek with slightly better pay/stability/benefits in a second. "Ooo, you're offering me healthcare that costs you $450/month as an employer? I can buy decent coverage for myself for ~$100/month." That free time will be a better investment in the long run, as I sure as hell will use it to do much cooler things than regular, every-day work. That reminds me, I have to contact a venture capital guy I did some consulting for that was thinking of building a social network....

Job. The job itself, what I'm doing, is less important than what it allows me to do outside of the job. Yes, I like working with Drupal, I like web development, but outside that, I could be working for the most boring company, and making a great salary with the ability to work remotely, and I'd be ok with that. Of course I will give a little preference to the job itself, what I'd be doing, but really, all I'm targeting right now is salary and freedom. 

This concludes my thoughts and lessons learned thus far. I think I'm heading in the right direction, now, after a week's worth of deliberation, and am excited by the possible prospects! Thank goodness for the ability to take this time to reflect and deliberate. 

A short story I wrote as a child
Alive and free

Shiner The Quarter


Once in the hills of Idaho Springs sat a little piece of
silver named Shiner. He loved sitting on the silver hill, listening to the
stream of water trickling down the mountainside as it flowed into the beautiful
river. Shiner sure loved it there.

 One day in
the peaceful mountains came a roaring sound. "What could it be?"
thought Shiner. Then a huge white thing came around the corner.

"What a strange animal," Shiner said to his
cousin, Rocky, who was the last piece of gold on the mountain.

"It must be some more of those animals that mine
for gold. "They'll have a hard time getting rich this time, since I'm the
last piece of gold left on this mountain," said Rocky.

"Look Joe,....SILVER....we've struck it rich

"What in the world do they want silver for?"
asked Silver.

"I'm afraid they want it for the same thing they
want gold for," said Rocky.

"What will I be used for?"

"Just about anything," Rocky replied.

"What are those long sharp things on a stick,

"They're picks. They'll use them to dig us up

"Help! Mom! Dad! They're going to dig us up!"
screamed Shiner. The second after he said that a big pick hit him.
"OOOOOWWWW!!" yelled Shiner. "Help! Help! Help!"

Before he knew it, he was tossed in the big white
animal, that was really a truck, with many other pieces of silver.

"Where are they taking me?" he cried.

"I don't know," said another piece of silver
nearby. "We'll just have to see."

Shiner trembled with fear as they started up the truck.
He nearly crumbled at the thought of being shattered, or whatever horrible
thing these strange animals would do to him. He watched sadly as they went away
from the beautiful mountain that was his home. He had no idea what would happen

After miles and miles of traveling, the truck finally
stopped at a place called the Denver Mint. The people unloaded the pieces of
silver onto a long, thin pice of rubber that brought them into a furnace.
Shiner got very, very, hot. He was almost burning! In a second he had melted
and turned into liquid.

After that he was poured into a little round hole in a
piece of metal. Then another piece of metal came on top of him. Finally he was
cooled and put into a roll of paper with other silver circles just like him. He
had turned into a quarter!

Now he was shipped to a federal bank and put into a dark
dreary safe. Shiner wondered if he was going to spend the rest of his life

After Shiner had been in the safe for days and days, the
door opened with a creeeeeeeak. Shiner and the other quarters were taken out
and carried off by another strange animal.

After a few hours, Shiner opened his eye to see his own
beautiful town, Idaho Springs, Colorado. How lucky could he be. Maybe he was
finally  going home. But tears
filled his eyes as they went past the road to his beautiful mountain, where he
had lived the happiest times with Rocky and his mom and dad.

Shortly the big animal stopped. The animals with two
feet lifted Shiner and the other quarters out. They pulled the bags of quarters
into a bank. Then Shiner and some others were taken to a store. The people took
out the rolls of quarters and pulled the paper off. They put the quarters into
a cash register, which to Shiner looked like a monster that was going to eat
him up! But when that didn't happen, he thought it was just another safe that
he would stay in for an endless time.

Shiner was wrong. The cash register rang and he and a
twenty dollar bill was lifted out by a strange  people animal. he was put into it's pocket with the bill.
While they were in the pocket, the twenty dollar bill said that he was made
from a tree. He said he had been to many places, but they weren't fun places.
He said that quarters got all the fun because they were the ones who could be
put into slot machines and gumball machines. He just got put into cash
registers and pockets. Shiner was so happy to hear that everything would be all
right and that he would have a good time.

Then Shiner and his new friend were lifted out of the
person's pocket and put into a billfold. They went to sleep.

At around nine o'clock in the morning, Shiner and his
friend, the bill, were put into a purse. Next they were driven to an Arcade.
Shiner heard a boy ask his mom for a quarter. Shiner was picked up by the big
animal and handed to the small one. The boy said that was one of the shiniest
quarters he had ever seen.

When the boy put Shiner into the slot, he rolled down a
little ways and then sprang up into the screen. The only reason he did this was
to have adventure. He sure got it! Shiner was dodging bullets and grenades and
army men. When the game was finally done, Shiner rolled back down with the
other quarters. The game was played many times and it was so loud that Shiner
couldn't get to sleep.

After hundreds of BOOMS and BANGS, another boy put a
quarter in but the game didn't start, so he pushed the coin return. As the
quarter rolled down to the return, Shiner sprang up and said, "No you
don't. I've been in here long enough." Shiner knocked the other quarter
off and rolled down to the coin return himself. The boy picked him up and put
him in his pocket. Shiner was so exhausted he fell right to sleep.

He was awakened again by the boy taking him out of his
pocket and putting him in a pop machine. He rolled and rolled down to a dark
pit. It was cold and lonely and he began to shiver. He stayed there all night.

In the morning he woke up scared half to death. He had
been dreaming about Rocky and his mom and dad sitting on the warm sunlit
mountain. But now he was freezing and he realized he was still in the pop
machine. He sure missed his family.

Someone put in a dollar bill in the machine and Shiner
and another quarter were pushed into the change return. A boy took one of the
quarters and put it into a gumball machine and got some gum, but he put Shiner
back into his pocket.

Shiner arrived at the boy's home and was taken out and
put into a piggy bank with many other quarters. The quarters said "It gets
very loud when the boy shakes us to see how many of us are in here. It also
gets quite annoying when the boy keeps shaking us every day. One day, we hope
that the boy will break the piggy bank and let us out."

Shiner stayed in there many days, and each day he
thought about his mom and dad.

After days and days the boy finally broke the piggy
bank. The bank shattered on the floor and the quarters flew out. The boy was
going to the bank. He took all the quarters and put them in his billfold,
except he put Shiner in his pocket because he was so shiny. The father drove
the boy to the bank. The boy gave all the quarters except Shiner to the banker.
She put them in a counting machine that tells you how much money you have put
in. He had a total of fifteen dollars in quarters. He told the banker that he
wanted it put in with his other money in his savings account.

When the boy and his father were in the car, the boy
asked his dad if they could go for a walk in the mountains. While the two
people were talking, Shiner found a hole in the boy's pocket and was trying to
get out. He soon realized it would do no good. He figured he would fall out and
the boy would just pick him up again, so he lay still.

The boy and his father drove for a few minutes and then
stopped. "Here we are, Shiner Peak," said the boy's father.

"Hey," thought Shiner, "They named a
mountain after me."

He looked through the hole in the boy's pocket with all
the amazement in the world to see that they were climbing his own mountain.
Shiner was so excited he could not keep still as he squeezed through the hole
in the boy's pocket and rolled down yelling, "Mom, Dad, Rocky,....I'M

Shiner stopped rolling right by his mom and dad and

"What happened to you?" asked his mom.

"I turned into a quarter," shouted Shiner.

"It doesn't matter what you turned into," said
Rocky, "We'll always love you no matter what you are. We're just glad
you're finally home!"

Experience and the speed of contrast
Alive and free
Sometimes stepping into a space with other people is like waking up from the deepest of sleeps in the darkest of rooms to a stage spotlight. Other times it is unifying, deep, and beautiful. I just left Spring Awakening — the latter type of experience — put in the "night" CD from It's All Gone Pete Tong, weaving a cool, somber soundtrack, of everything from electronica to Edith Piaf to a piano concerto, and drove to Mt. Fuji where I was hoping for a peaceful, reflective, Japanese sushi bar experience. Unfortunately, the people here are all stage spotlights. Every single one. Loud and obnoxious and totally bereft of any of the qualities that I felt around me just a few minutes ago. 

When I'm in Japan I feel somber. Most everything is conducive to feeling somber there. And I love it. But, after about two or three weeks I start to feel fleeting moments of depression. 

This is nothing new. We strive for beauty and perfection, but the moment we reach too far for it, it's gone. If my personal Spring Awakening tonight lasted and lasted, in its perfection and somberness and unity with the world, I would become depressed, eventually. It's not very novel to say that contrast is important to experience, but I think it is interesting to note how the *speed* of contrast is crucial to seeing and experiencing clearly. Bright light is only abrasive and distortionary when it is contrasted with sleep and darkness. 

I'm trying to decide when to change this
Alive and free
I've not written here in a long time.
I've been too busy *doing*. Too busy thinking outside of myself. Too busy being efficient.
I've been reflecting...just not about myself and the things going on around me -- at least not deeply.

A hardened, somewhat opaque shell has emerged as a byproduct of my adventures in vulnerability.
Now, it's as if I have to sometimes work towards translucency, lest somber, calculated precision and certainty become the default behaviors.
All it took was some poetry and memories from a few years ago...and a little Death Cab...and the radiance and depth of soul resurfaced -- the stuff that makes the world oscillate and hum before me.

Who am I now and what do I want? This is a question that I've not put myself in for at least a year, maybe more. I've just been happy. Really happy. And life has been pretty simple, pretty zen.

I'm trying to decide when to change this.

Alive and free
Aging is a process of being pressured to become boring.
Resist it.

(no subject)
Alive and free
"I never use contracts (I do have one but never use it), even for 30k jobs. I’ve been freelancing for over 10 years and never found it necessary. I also don’t request any upfront payment.

Instead I bill incrementally for small amounts (typically from $500 to $1000 depending on the client) throughout the development period with terms strictly 14 days. If payment is late, work on the project stops and I focus on other clients who are paying their bills on time.

I don’t let clients run up a large debt and I don’t want a large up-front payment. I want clients to get use to the small incremental system from the get go.

It’s also important to look for the early warning signs, for potentially bad clients, and get out before they owe you money. I prefer to work directly with clients, rather than studios.

Also I absolutely love and adore scope creep, it pays my bills, since I don’t accept fixed bid quotes"


Choice of direction: Freedom or constraint
Alive and free
To be free or constrained?

I've always enjoyed life more and become a richer and happier person (in the long run) for not upholding my own (psychological) freedom over the freedom (psychological + social + political + economic) and happiness of others. I've invested in myself by investing in others, even if the investment is indirect (i.e. investing in acquiring knowledge that I want to share or help others with).

A pursuit based *solely* on individual freedom is nice on Sunday afternoons, but during the course of life such a pursuit becomes shallow.

To be free or constrained?

Constrained in the name of others' good (i.e. take a teaching job at a technical college, constrained time, constrained salary, but possibly for me would be freer summers, schedule, and mind/spirit)
or free in the name of my good (take a freelancing gig that would allow me to work from anywhere and possibly open up some ins to industries connected to Hollywood)
or free in others' eyes but maybe constrained in mine (to stay at my current job).

I turned 29.
Is there something I'm supposed to be living now that I'm not? Something I've missed or missing? I want to live in Mexico during February, commute to NYC once a month if I take that freelancing job, visit Japan in April and ski in Aspen this winter. I want to have time to spend with my friends, time to dedicate to EXCO and the free education movement, and time to spend with...a boyfriend, as I'm finally unwounded enough and hopefully unconstrained enough to date again. And then time to slow down and realize / reflect on what I'm living. Where to spend and find the time?

Young idealists say to roam free and follow *my* heart, let it run wild. I feel as though I've taken the reigns off enough to allow my racehorse of a spirit to bolt off...yet gallivanting has always circled around something more substantial, which has always included hearts other than my own. And, maybe they're right in that the vivid pain, growth, and development/reinvention coming from straying and roaming can make you stronger if you haven't had the proper pain to make yourself so thus far.... but pain in all its forms is like Vitamin C: if you take too much you can get diarrhea, its effectiveness peaks at about 500mg, and too little leads to scurvy and wasting away. I've eased off to 500mg now, and life is so healthy.

It's not just about more time as in more hours of the day to do what I want when I want: it's about the quality of time, overall: working, sleeping, dreaming, thinking, vegging, vacationing, and what that investment in time will bring to me and others in the future. We so often think about the quality of time when we're working, for example, but never the quality of time when we're sleeping at night.

A glimpse of what I've been up to
Alive and free
This was an email I sent to someone interested in co-organizing the following tech/design workshop that I set up in the Twin Cities:


Very great to hear from you! Just made you a co-organizer of this group. I'm going to blather a bit to give you context for myself and this group, and hopefully my jabbering will culminate in a clear imperative or at least something to start working from:

This summer my previous co-organizer, Ryan, moved to Norway to do his master's in Linguistics. Also this summer, I have been swamped teaching four classes for the Twin Cities Experimental College (EXCO) (, as well as helping the org with their technical and admin/organizational needs. I think the mission of EXCO is similar to and even larger than that of this meetup, which is why I have let the meetup slide and collect membership until (1) summer ended, and (2) someone like you with sufficient motivation and interest could come along to help to replace Ryan :) Luckily both are happening at the same time.

EXCO's mission is to provide free education to the community, and bring people together around the creation and dissemination of knowledge. A major problem EXCO is facing is that there's no non-profit org set up, which partially contributes to a lack of decent funding....Funding isn't necessary in many areas, but in areas like space (locations for meeting, equipment, supplies, etc) and administrative/clerical workforce, it really slows us down. There's no reason that a bunch of people interested in learning from each other, sharing that knowledge, and creating creative/collaborative fruits can't get major grants, donations, and other sources of funding if their ducks are properly lined up...but it's hard to get proper donations and grants if that money is not tax-deductible for those who give the money (our org has to be 501c3 status for that to happen).

I want to create a non-profit org dedicated to providing free collaborative education in the Twin Cities. There are already several folks at EXCO willing to help make this happen, and there's no reason the mission of that org wouldn't intersect with the mission of this meetup.

This meetup, as it is currently, is simple, though, unlike what I'm talking about above. The "space" for it can be coffee shops, we don't really need funding, and it can run on a purely volunteer network. No non-profit org is needed for it to function. However, there are certain weaknesses in volunteer networks that I've come to see from volunteering for EXCO, and I think this meetup has the potential to be part of something bigger, that makes an impact, that is sustainable.

All this to say that if you do want to help get this meetup off the ground, I'm really hoping that you will take the majority of the work into your own hands. I'll be able to help out, attend most meetings, help setting up any project management / technology, etc...but at this point I don't want to be spending too much time on it, and don't want to be skimming my time in the short-run and making sacrifices for what bigger things could be built in the long-run.

You in?,

Love and need
Alive and free


Log in