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Moving to Scotland Travel

First visit to Amsterdam

Spent my first time in this city last weekend, hanging out with my good friend Chris. Here are some notes.

  • Nothing planned at all except for the Van Gogh museum (learned the hard way about museum booking in advance after Paris).
  • The Van Gogh museum is absolutely worth it and one of my favorite museum experiences to date. Something new I learned was that he started seriously pursuing painting later in life and studied, practiced and struggled to improve for years to develop what would eventually become is signature style. One of his earliest works (The Potato Eaters) was heavily criticized because the figures had “tons of mistakes”, and one of his idols wrote to him “you can’t be serious” when he saw a print.
  • Now I understand the bike thing in Amsterdam. I love it and am jealous that the city it built for it, but it does make it hard to be a pedestrian at times.
  • The beer is superb and we sampled many, some of my favorite spots from the trip (with many other still to get to):
  • I enjoyed the architecture and the canals and the cafes and alleyways. Something new everywhere you looked. It felt dense but not claustrophobic.
  • Went to plenty of “coffee” shops to sample the wares and it was nothing special after living in the states where it’s legal to buy. Not as many options seemingly and the quality could be excellent or just ok.
  • Food was good, but I didn’t really get a chance to go to any spots I would consider particularly amazing. Bakers and Roasters was a particularly good brunch spot and the pancakes were good at De Vier Pilaren.
  • Amsterdam airport is 👍🏼. Easy to get into, out of, and through.
  • I heard Maxwells Urban Hang Suite multiple times at different place while there. 🤔
  • People were friendly but not overly so. Not a lot of chat.
  • There is a colony of parakeets living in Vondelpark: https://theculturetrip.com/europe/the-netherlands/articles/a-colony-of-wild-parakeets-is-flourishing-in-amsterdam-heres-why/
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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#45)

The week before the last week: This week is my last week before going back to work full time, so last week was special. Mostly because Sam turned 3 and we had a lot of celebrating to do throughout the week. But also because I just had a lot of time to play with the kids, not worry about what time I got up in the morning, and go running, speaking of which…


A new book that made me smile: I started reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running my Haruki Murukami, and am finding that I am relating to it a lot. There is too much to mention, but here are a few.

On being a good writer (but I think it applies to being good at whatever you do), you must have talent, concentration and endurance:

You’ll naturally learn both concentration and endurance when you sit down every day at your desk and train yourself to focus on one point. This is a lot like the training of muscles I wrote of a moment ago. You have to continually transmit the object of your focus to your entire body, and make sure it thoroughly assimilates the information necessary for you to write every single day and concentrate on the work at hand. And gradually, you’ll expand the limits of what you’re able to do. Almost imperceptibly you’ll make the bar rise. This involves the same process as jogging every day to strengthen your muscles and develop a runner’s physique. Add a stimulus and keep it up. And repeat. Patience is a must in this process, but I guarantee the results will come.

On being alone:

It might be a little silly for someone getting to be my age to put this into words, but I just want to be sure I get the facts down clearly: I’m the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put a finer point on itm I’m the type of person who doesn’t find it painful to be alone. I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring. I’ve had this tendency ever since I was young, when, given a choice, I much preferred reading books on my own or concentrating on listening to music over being with someone else. I could always think of things to do by myself.

On learning in school:

The most important thing we learn in schools is that the most important things can’t be learned in schools.


A scary-but-beautiful bit of encouragement to pass on to your partner, kids, students, and friends: Ken Burns’ mentor, Jerry Liebling, advocated learning by experience and told his daughters and students:

“Go, get out into the world. See, look around you. Do, make something, relate. You have an exchange with somebody, be. Take it in. Go, see, do, be.”

From the superb Ken Burns interview with Tim Ferriss. I did a drawing about it I liked it so much.


Revisited my few-time-a-year baking ritual: Baked a cake for Sam’s birthday and this simple sheet cake recipe turned out quite good. By the way, why is Cook’s Illustrated print edition so good and their digital stuff so annoyingly bad? I’m putting it here out of protest:


New music to work and draw to: I’ve been listening to Stars Are The Light from Moon Duo this week after hearing it on KEXP. Check out the track The World and the Sun to get a taste.


I miss regular Cheerios: You can’t get just plain Cheerios here it seems. It’s either some five grain variant or honey or something else. The kids are missing out!

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#19)

Drawing kids is hard: We were traveling all last week and I tried making some time to draw the kids at the breakfast table (in ink as is my norm right now). It was a (fun) disaster.

A book excerpt that made me think: In Draft No 4 by John McPhee lies the following quote from Cary Grant: “A thousand details add up to one impression.” The implication is that the small things really are the big things. Focus on doing the next thing the best you can, and the next, and the next. Create as many of these chains as you can. That is the definition of quality.

All about the robocall crisis: I get a few of these calls every week and my wife gets way more than I do. This gave me some backstory (and lots of interesting reading) on the cat-and-mouse game of robcalls: The robocall crisis will never be totally fixed.

A new coffee preparation: Found on the board of a coffee shop in Tofino, a cortado is a coffee preparation originating from Spain, consisting of half espresso, half milk. It’s similar to a flat white, but without the “textured” milk that is typical of Italian preparations. I still prefer my coffee black, but when I’m in the mood for something different, this is my new go-to.

My new goes-in-anything sauce: I’m super late to this party but Franks hot sauce is going in my pantry. It’s not really hot, and it’s got a acidic bite that can help balance any dish. When I was at a cooking class not long ago, they added it to anything that needed more acid (French cooking, Italian cooking, you name it).

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#16)

  • A quote I shared: “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Some new music for work: “I have lots of ideas, how do I pick the best one? Execute on as many as possible, the right one idea will pick you.” I heard this on Choose Yourself by Star Slinger. I don’t know if this is his originally, but based on all the advice in this song (including many I recognize from other sources) I’m guessing it’s not. Regardless, a lot of the bits in this track have stuck with me. His instrumental albums are right my alley for music to have on when I’m working. If you’re interested, I recommend starting with Volume 1.
  • A great essay on the future: I picked up a (physical!) copy of Wired before a flight last week as I had heard about Kevin Kelly’s Mirrorworld essay. It was a really fun read. Wired has been putting out so much good content recently that I thought about subscribing, just because I felt like I should support it, but their site wouldn’t do anything when I tried to give them money and support has been horrendous. I tried!
  • My new afternoon snack: Last week I spotted a tub of overnight oats with coldbrew, cacao and dates in an airport grab-and-go market. I make overnight oats frequently but had never thought of combining my afternoon caffeine needs with this snack! It’s now in my fridge as a regular go-to. Here’s a rough guideline for making (you can experiment freely and not go wrong): mix 1 cup oats, 1/2 cup almond, coconut or other nut milk, 1/2 cup cold brew (change the ratio of liquid according to your caffeine needs), 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats, a tablespoon of cacao, and finely chopped dates. Let sit overnight. I like to also add some combination of walnuts, granola, or fresh fruit in the morning when I grab a bit to take to work.
  • Something new to play when I don’t know what to play: KEXP listener’s favorite songs of all time was published as part of their spring fundraising drive. It’s one of those lists I put on when I’m hanging out with the kids or friends and/or not really sure what to go for. Listening to it inevitably leads to something great. Here’s a playlist with the top part of the list, it’s 600 songs deep so I’ll keep adding to it.

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What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#2)

  • There’s lots of music I’ve been sleeping on, as evident by KEXP’s Top 90.3 Albums of 2018: I’ve been swimming in new music since last week. Combing through all of the “best of 2018” lists made me realize how much I’ve been missing out on some great stuff this year. My favorite lists are KEXP’s Top 90.3 Albums, and the lists from their DJs, namely Troy Nelson, John Richards, DJ Alex as well as many others. My top albums of the year right are:
    • Kasamai Washington- Heaven and Earth
    • Against All Odds – 2012 – 2017
    • DJ Kose- Knock Knock
    • Curtis Harding – Face Your Fear
    • Black Milk – Fever
    • Pusha T – Daytona
    • Black Panther OST
    • TiRon & Ayomari- WET
    • Plus a few new albums I’m now all about as a result of this past week:
      • IDLES – Joy As An Act of Resistance
      • Children of Zeus – Travel Light
      • Mick Jenkins – Pieces of a Man
      • Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy
      • Confidence Man – Confident Music for Confident People
  • A new book for the kids called The Day Louis Got Eaten by John Fardell: Our latest discovery in kids books has been John Fardell and his two picture books “The Day Louis Got Eaten” and “Jeremiah the Jellyfish”. The illustrations are incredible and the stories are great. We change the names of the main characters to our names and pretend my daughter is saving her brother from the monsters. It’s fantastic. I’m now on the hunt for the first picture book he did, “Manfred the Baddie”.
  • How to cook my new favorite food, coconut bacon: I’ve never heard of this until last week, but apparently you can not only make it but buy it in grocery stores as well. It’s amazing. My wife and I experimented with a month of eating vegetarian this past September, and it’s continued through October, November and now December. Eliminating meat has been eye-opening as a way to expand our horizons of what’s possible in the kitchen, and we’ve loved it. Coconut bacon is a great example of why. I originally found it in the book Protein Ninja by Terry Hope Romero. It’s so simple, and so good, I don’t know whether I’d ever go back. Here is a similar version of the recipe from the book.
  • My son, Sam, telling Santa what he wants for Christmas: TRUCK TRUCK!
My son, Sam, telling Santa what he wants for Christmas: TRUCK TRUCK!