The Transfiguration

everything is sacred

Archive for the ‘strangers’ Category

Team of the Day #2618

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For a month or so I’ve been using an app called Fabulous, which is designed to help you set some daily habits you’d like to keep and encourages you to stick to them. I used it to set up a morning routine for myself: set some goals, exercise and stretch, free-write, shower for a less than atrocious length of time. It’s a nice little app, so I’ve stuck with it.

Earlier this week I was surprised by an email from the CEO of the company making Fabulous, which turns out to be a team of about three people. They happened to be in San Francisco and wanted to talk with people who actually used what they’ve built, so they invited a few of their users to a café today. It seemed like a strange sort of message to get; most software we use just feels like it falls out of the sky, with no faces attached to it, so I wasn’t sure how to respond.

But I’ve liked using their app and it’s good to put myself out to do things that might make me uncomfortable, so I went out to the city to meet these strangers. I’m glad I did, because they seemed earnestly interested in making something useful and in learning what needs to be improved, and only one guest besides myself actually showed up. We talked about design and motivation and threw around some ideas, and everyone was keen on continuing the discussion at the end of it.

A strange experience, and I suppose a very San Francisco one; it felt very unlike myself to go out to meet strangers like that. It’ll be interesting to see what else they make – I wonder how many others will shape their mornings with it.

pipes and creaks

Written by Umbrella Man

November 23, 2015 at 12:30 am

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Encounter of the Day #2585

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Encounter of the Day #2585

I to a Bart station I rarely use today and, by chance, found myself standing in line behind Cordelia, whom I met with a few times two years ago. She didn’t notice me at first, and I wasn’t quite sure whether to say hello, but a moment later I caught her eye and we talked on the train back to the east bay.

Cordelia’s a programmer, but has more creative tendencies than a lot of the people in our field, and has been tired of the growing culture of privilege that suffuses the San Francisco tech bubble. We have similar thoughts on the subject, I think; doing the work we do here, it’s hard not to feel responsible for the cultural and economic crises that the Bay Area is dealing with these days.

We are all just trying to figure out how to be humans, of course.

We talked about video games and work and the Jelly Belly Factory, and then Cordelia disembarked to work on her comics. We left it at that – perhaps we’ll run into each other again in another year or two, having found new ways to make the world the place it deserves to be.

by the sea

Written by Umbrella Man

October 20, 2015 at 11:03 pm

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Band of the Day #2546

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Band of the Day #2546

Downtown Berkeley has stepped it up recently – there are more artists there, more people singing and dancing, more street vendors with interesting little bits. This is, I believe, the John Brothers Piano Company, and I arrived after work to find them putting on quite a show for everyone. The trumpet player also rocked the clarinet, then joined the pianist for a fantastic duet. I was reminded of Pearce’s piano trio from Santa Cruz, when the players were constantly switching places on the bench.

Nearby a bear made of scrap is ready to take a selfie, and a woman painted silver stood silent with her parasol. She winked at me as I passed, drawing a surprise smile out of me.

Cities are constantly changing, for better or for worse, and it’s good to see Berkeley so lively.

terra damnata

Written by Umbrella Man

September 11, 2015 at 11:16 pm

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Return of the Day #2545

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Return of the Day #2545

A new cohort at App Academy graduated tonight, and my team is looking for a new member. Xiao came along with me to meet the grads and check out their final projects – all those people eager to show off the features I’d learned to build almost a year ago.

I’ve certainly gained some experience since App Academy, but it doesn’t feel like a distant memory; my time since then has just been one solid band of existence, and returning to the classroom here felt comfortable, without the eerie feeling one might get from walking through an old elementary school.

We talked to many people and collected a stack of resumes – perhaps someone we met will join our team.

I wonder how all the friends I made during my cohort are doing these days.


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September 10, 2015 at 10:43 pm

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Breath of the Day #2474

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Breath of the Day #2474

Walking down into the Bart system sometimes feels like descending into the belly of a dragon, its thick breath rising out as you enter. It holds the accumulated breaths of tens of thousands of people, the heat radiating from those many bodies, and the scents of grease and dust swept in by their legs from every entry point in the city. Today that breath seemed unusually sickly; summer has given the great dragon a fever, perhaps.

I like the city well enough, but I am amazed at how much better I feel once I arrive back in Berkeley. The crowds are gone, the traffic is softer, there are trees whispering and wind chimes singing; it is very much as if I’ve been carrying around some added weight in the city, and it’s immediately removed when I step out of the Bart station.

There are people who live and work entirely in the dense areas of the city. I wonder how they feel when they travel to rural places, and so much of the constant noise they’ve grown accustomed to is hushed.

like an ancient day

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July 1, 2015 at 11:32 pm

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Dentist of the Day #2397

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Dentist of the Day #2397

I haven’t had fillings put in for at least ten years, but when I was little my attempts at dental hygiene were futile at best. I almost always followed a routine checkup with another dreaded appointment where they’d put that awful drill to my teeth, leaving me numb and drooling an hour later.

Today wasn’t nearly as bad, and I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve grown up, because the technology is better, or because my dentists today were more skilled. It may be all three.

The two experts who hovered over my gaping jaw today went about the whole process very nicely, making what is unavoidably an unpleasant operation as bearable as possible. They talked to each other about Zumba and the music on the radio; I suspect it’s a suggested practice to make light conversation as they work, like performing a little skit to keep the patient’s mind on other things. I kept watching the chains of my doctor’s tortoiseshell glasses sway as she prepared one tool after another.

At the end of it all I had lost the ability to enunciate difficult words like blog, so I stumbled a bit when I tried to explain what the photo was for. This, too, is part of life as a dentist: the post-operation conversation, trying to decipher the crushed words limping from a patient’s numb lips.

it’s only been a week

Written by Umbrella Man

April 16, 2015 at 12:24 am

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Distraction of the Day #2270

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Distraction of the Day #2270

I woke up early for a special class to get me better acquainted with my new job’s methodologies – team organization, work planning, etc etc. Leaving home before full daylight was an unusual gift; the world was soaked in a dark pink, the streets and sky all so eerily tinted.

My coworker picked me up across the street from an abandoned university, and we drove through fog across low roads, hints of marsh close on either side of us.

Our class was in a convention center by the docks, and through the wide windows, throughout the day, I could see birds and humans paddling through the water outside. The world there was soft gray, the bay mirrored, and as we learned how to deliver product reliably I couldn’t help but think about being out there too.

These are not mutually exclusive things, of course. I can be a good developer, solving puzzles and creating useful things, and also go outside and be a part of the world.

I wonder what these people do with the rest of their lives, and where they are right now.

The end of the day brought this particular blend of colors and silhouettes, and I managed to capture it just as the class wrapped up day one. I wonder who we’ll see out there tomorrow.

two dots

Written by Umbrella Man

December 9, 2014 at 10:27 pm

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