Digital Is Killing Serendipity

The buildings are the same, but the information landscape has changed, dramatically.

Today I’m going to write about the college course booklet, an artifact of another time. I hope along the way we might learn something about digital technology, information design, and why we keep getting in our own way when it comes to applying the lessons of the past to the possibilities of the future. But to do that, we have to start with a story.  

Forty years ago this summer I was a rising Freshman at UC Berkeley. Like most 17- or 18- year olds in the pre-digital era, I wasn’t particularly focused on my academic career, and I wasn’t much of a planner either. As befit the era, my parents, while Berkeley alums, were not the type to hover – it wasn’t their job to ensure I read through the registration materials the university had sent in the mail – that was my job. Those materials included a several-hundred-page university catalog laying out majors, required courses, and descriptions of nearly every class offered by each of the departments. But that was all background – what really mattered, I learned from word of mouth, was the course schedule, which was published as a roughly 100-page booklet a few weeks before classes started. 

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Mastering the Rudiments

My first kit, a Pearl Vision walnut finish. I miss that kit.

There’s probably a name for it, but I can’t conjure the word: When you’ve been doing something a long, long time, then realize you’ve pretty much been doing it all wrong. That’s the case with me and the drums – an instrument I picked up a dozen years ago but only recently have come to understand as infinitely intricate.

I can’t explain why I started playing, I got the bug when my good friend Jordan insisted I sit down and attempt to bang out a rhythm one very late night. He was re-familiarizing himself with his guitar and wanted a co-conspirator, he happened to have a kit collecting dust in his garage. I was in my mid forties and pretty lost in my career, and I had just moved to a new town. We had a blast making noise that first night – I recall the police coming after multiple complaints, and I woke up afterwards with my face stuck to the snare. After that I built a band room in an out building on my property, found some more guys to play with, and we formed what could pass for a band.

The original band room, circa 2015

I was a terrible drummer. I took a few lessons and watched some YouTube videos, but I resolutely refused to practice. I think I knew how much I didn’t know, how much I had to learn. I mean, Lars Ulrich was a parent at my kids’ school, and there was no way I was ever going to play at his level. Anyways, I didn’t want to “get serious” – I just wanted to play. Turns out the world vanishes when you lock in with other players and everyone is chasing the flow. When that flow graces the room, damn, there’s just nothing like it. I knew there was a universe of “real drumming” that I was ignoring, but hey, I could study a beat and figure out how to mimic it, and I could (mostly) keep time. And every so often I’d surprise myself with a new riff that seemed to come out of nowhere. We were just having fun, jamming and playing covers and even penning a few originals. None of us had dreams of “playing out” or getting good enough to make a career in music.

The band room was a joyful counterbalance to the madness and exhilaration of running businesses and raising young children. It beat playing golf or going to Vegas or getting drunk in random bars. We’d all text each other on the fly – “band room!?” – and since we all lived nearby, we’d end up playing for a few hours several times a week. It was always after: After dinner, after we put the kids to bed, after the evening work emails or calls. We got good enough to draw a crowd from time to time, but I think folks came more for the vibe. The music was just an excuse for the hang, and the band room was a pretty special place to hang. We had white boards, extra instruments just in case someone showed up who actually knew how to play, and plenty of booze and weed. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hang?

Seven years in, reality intervened, some bad things happened to good people, and the band splintered. Jordan and I kept playing when we could, and a few regulars would come by from time to time, but the vibe was never really the same. I was playing far less than I’d have liked. And I wasn’t learning anything new. When the band room was in full swing, we’d push each other to learn something new, or real players would come by from time to time, and they’d push us even harder. That wasn’t happening any more.

A few years later, with two of my three kids already out of the house, the rest of my family and I moved to New York. Cleaning out the band room was one of the hardest parts of leaving California. Our bassist agreed to relocate the equipment to his garage, but I only get back there a few times a year. I did buy a new kit for my apartment in New York, but it sat there like a stack of unread New Yorkers, balefully reminding me that I wasn’t really playing anymore.

Then the pandemic came, and my wife Michelle and I moved our base to our multi-generational family homestead on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Last year, after my daughter’s high school graduation, we realized we didn’t have to stay in New York. We moved full time to the island, and, for the first time in five years, I had both the time and the space to start playing again. I built another band room in my basement, but for the first six months I only played when other players came by – and given we were new to the area, that wasn’t very often.

Early this year, however, I was hit with a major life transition. We sold the Recount in January, and for the first time in more than thirty years, I wasn’t either running a company or worrying about starting another. I promised myself and my family that, after three decades, I’d stop chasing the entrepreneurial dragon. But I needed something to chase, so I decided to get serious about the drums – to actually explore how much I didn’t know. I resolved to practice daily. I’m a lifelong maker of lists, so every day I write “practice” on my list of things to do. And every day I cross that line through. (It’s silly, but it works.) I even set up a practice kit in my office upstairs – saving the “real” kit downstairs for when friends come over to jam. I read somewhere it takes three weeks to develop a new habit, and as of today, it’s now been more than three months of realizing how little I actually know about playing the drums.

Back when I was first learning, I remember a YouTube instructor imploring his viewers to practice what are called rudiments. This are basic sticking patterns that underpin pretty much the entire vocabulary of drumming. I once asked a friend who was a “real” drummer about them, and he told me if I really wanted to get any good, I should focus on nothing but rudiments for at least a year. That struck me as insane – it was just so much fun to bang out basic beats while playing with others. Rudiments are not only boring to practice, many of them are also maddeningly hard to master. But that’s where I started in February – with thirty minutes of rudiments each day. When I get stuck, I turn back to YouTube, where you can find thousands of videos on, say, the double stroke roll or the inverted paradiddle.

I’m not even close to where I want to be, I know I’ve got months or even years of work ahead of me before I can get to the speed and musicality I know is possible once you master rudiments. Turns out I was holding the sticks wrong, I was failing to use my fingers properly, I sucked at triplets, I wasn’t playing to a metronome, I was utterly ignorant of how to play the bass pedal – nearly every day my list of things to practice grows longer. I’m wading into the sea of ignorance I had been avoiding for a dozen years. And it feels fucking awesome. I’ve noticed lately that I don’t have to push myself to sit at the kit and practice any more. I want to master the rudiments. I want to get to the next level.

I guess the lesson is this: For every field, every career, and every practice, there are rudiments – core skills that underpin everything else. I’ve found that if you’re stuck, it pays to return to them. They have more to teach us than we know.

The new band room circa 2023

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As AI Moves In, Let’s Not Forget Why We Like People

Maybe we like having a produce guy after all.

Given the news around AI’s impact on the tech industry, search, and jobs in general, I thought it made sense to re-up a piece I wrote back in 2018, triggered at the time by the launch of Amazon Go (which, not surprisingly, did not exactly go as Amazon might have wished). I re-read it recently and thought it held up pretty well (and I’ve been on the road for over a week, so fresh pieces will have to wait for a few more days!). 

So Amazon Go launched this week, and the rush to praise the “store without cashiers” as the future of retail was immediate and sustained. I found Ben Thompson’s considered take representative of the bunch:

For decades technology helped the industrial world work better; more and more, technology is replacing that world completely, and there will be pain. That, though, is precisely why it is worth remembering that the world is not static: to replace humans is, in the long run, to free humans to create entirely new needs and means to satisfy those needs. It’s what we do, and the faith to believe it will happen again will be the best guide in figuring out how.

… The lines outside Amazon Go, though, are a reminder of exactly why aggregator monopolies are something entirely new: these companies are dominant because people love them. Regulation may be as elusive as Marx’s revolution.

But…do people really love them? Do we really want to buy our food at automated, faceless Amazon stores? Do we really want to cleanse all human contact from what is now one of our most human and most social activities — the gathering of our sustenance? When did society collectively decide that we no longer value the produce guy, the butcher, or the cashier who knows our kids and asks how our mother in law is faring?

My first take on Amazon Go is this: F*cking A, do we really want eggplants and cuts of meat reduced to parameterized choices spit onto algorithmized shelves? Ick. I like the human confidence I get when a butcher considers a particular rib eye, then explains the best way to cook that one cut of meat. Sure, technology could probably deliver me a defensibly “better” steak, perhaps even one tailored to my preferences as expressed through reams of data collected through means I’ll probably never understand.

But come on.

Sometimes you just want to look a guy in the eye and sense, at that moment, that THIS rib eye is perfect for ME, because I trust that butcher across the counter. We don’t need meat informed by data and butchered by bloodless algorithms. We want our steak with a side of humanity. We lose that, we lose our own narrative.

What I find troubling about Amazon Go is how easily we are accepting our own loss of agency, in exchange for the vaunted goals of convenience and efficiency. It’s exactly the same relinquishment of agency demanded by Facebook’s News Feed — an opaque, data-driven platform that presumes to divine what we want to consume, independent of our own active participation in the preparation stage of that consumption. Instead of feeding us information, however, Amazon literally wants to feed us our groceries. Along the way, we lose the humans who, for millennia, have borne witness to our independent agency. (The humans in Facebook’s case are reporters and editors, FWIW. With Uber, they’re drivers and conversation partners. And so on…).

We’re losing something critical here, and we’re not talking about it enough. Sure, we wring our hands about “job loss,” but that’s not my point. It’s something deeper — we seem to be gutting our society…because we can?

In his piece analyzing Go, Thompson writes:

It seems obvious that Amazon Go stores of the future will rarely have employees in store at all: there will be a centralized location for food preparation and a dedicated fleet of shelf stockers. That’s the thing about Amazon: the company isn’t afraid of old-world scale.

Thompson’s argument is that our society is freeing workers from jobs that were once necessary in an industrial economy, so that they may find more creative and fulfilling roles doing … something else. But what if in fact helping someone understand the intricacies of an eggplant, while also connecting in a uniquely human fashion, is in fact what our society does want?

Our technology platform’s “answers” to our society’s supposed needs — the seemingly inevitable capital-efficient march of companies like Amazon and Facebook into every possible sector of our lives — that march is taken as a foregone conclusion, an answer to a question we’ve never even posed to ourselves. Of course we’d take Bezos’ approach over however those markets previously worked.


In the past, our tech platforms have attacked markets that really were broken — and created magical experiences that made our lives better. Facebook really was a better way to stay connected to our friends and family. Amazon really was a better way to buy stuff online. Google really was a better way to find information. NetFlix was a better way to watch movies. And so on.

But as they pursue the crack cocaine of capitalism — unmitigated growth — are technology platforms pushing into markets where perhaps they simply don’t belong? When a tech startup called Bodega launched with a business plan nearly identical to Amazon’s, it was laughed off the pages of TechCrunch. Why do we accept the same idea from Amazon? Because Amazon can actually pull it off?

It’s this question that dogs me as I think about how Facebook comports itself : We know what’s best for you, better than you do in fact, so trust us, we’ll roll the code, you consume what we put in front of you.

But…all interactions of humanity should not be seen as a decision tree waiting to be modeled, as data sets that can be scanned for patterns to inform algorithms. As Thompson enthusiastically chronicles, technology companies are ruthlessly efficient machines: They identify markets fraught with “inefficiencies” and apply their scale, processing power, and absurdly one-sided data monopolies to remake those markets in their own image. Coupled with seemingly intractable economic “laws” (like Thompson’s beloved “aggregation theory”), the outcome feels utterly predestined.

Thompson’s justification for the socio-political inevitability of Amazon’s approach — that displaced workers will find new, more fulfilling roles in society — is now pervasive amongst tech’s defenders. I’ve spent a fair amount of intellectual cycles trying to understand exactly what those new roles might be — Craft brewer? Hot yoga instructor? Elder careperson? — but now I think perhaps I’m paying attention to the wrong question. Perhaps a better one is simply this: Why get rid of the produce guy in the first place?

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The Recount Joins The News Movement

Four years ago this past summer my family and I decided to move to New York, and as I prepared, I called my best friend in Manhattan, the journalist John Heilemann. If anyone could present me with the key to our new city, it was John – he was connected to everything and everyone worth knowing in New York.

But much to my surprise John had something different in mind when I rang to pick his brain. In short, he had an idea for a new kind of company, one he’d been bouncing off of our mutual friend Fred Wilson. John wanted to totally rethink video-based news for what we came to call the “post-linear” information ecosystem – in other words, for a world dominated by Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and of course the emerging world of streaming.

As I’ve written previously, I was reluctant to start another company at the time. But Fred and John convinced me to jump onboard, and for the next four years – three of which fell in the shadow of a once-in-a-century pandemic – we built The Recount into a potent voice covering politics and power in the United States.  Before we launched the company in the Fall of 2019, John, Fred and I agreed we’d stay true to our core mission and values – to  focus on the problem of video in social and streaming, to not deviate from the fundamental principles of journalism, and above all, to not let the company interfere with friendships that had been decades in the making.

More than three years since our launch, I’m proud to say that The Recount has been acquired by The News Movement, an innovative and ambitious startup that shares our core values. It’s been quite a journey, and I’ve learned more in these past few years than the entire decade prior. One of the main reasons I agreed to join Fred and John was because I’d had limited experience in digital video, and pretty much no exposure to the kind of high-level political journalism that John practices daily. Along the way I was honored to work with scores of extraordinary people – people who created a brand, a voice, and a point of view that I’m proud to say will live on as part of The News Movement going forward.

In time I hope to write about those people and the lessons I’ve learned, but that’s for the future. For now, I just want to express my gratitude to everyone who joined The Recount in its mission. I’m signing off, but the work continues. As Slade Sohmer, for four years our Editor in Chief and now the leader of The Recount, famously puts it whenever change is in the wind: Onward.

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The Next First Day

Today is the first workday of the new year. For most of us, that means the slow roll of the holidays is over. Today we answer all those emails we left unattended, resume work we left on hold in early December, and start filling up our calendars with meetings we’d rather not attend.

I’ve chosen a different path this year, for me, an uncertain path. I’m resolved to write here more frequently, even if what I produce isn’t exactly consistent with whatever it is I do for a living. The past four years have been strange – I started a political media company with a dear friend, it triumphed and it failed and it continues to this day. I learned more than I thought was possible, but my writing stagnated. I’ve decided to return to this blank space filling slowly with words – to prioritize it, to make it more important than the meetings and the unsent emails and the work left on hold late last year.

It’s a risk.

Twenty years ago, literally, almost to the day, I was reeling from the end of my second business (The Industry Standard), but back then I had a clear idea of what I was going to do next. It would be a book on search, on its history and its future, on its meaning and its most important company: Google. I had no idea how to write a book, though I had edited a few in my time at Wired. I was fascinated by blogs, I’d set up a few as an Adjunct Professor at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, and I figured if I wrote out loud about my reporting, something might come of it. Here’s the very first post I wrote on this site, in its entirety:

Finally we’ve got this thing up and running. I’m in New York, seeing old friends, interviewing folks for the book. In some cases they are one and the same.
I suppose this first post should outline the goals of this blog, but to be honest, that feels far too forced. Suffice that here I’ll post this and that which I find noteworthy or interesting, in particular as it relates to search, the subject of my first book, and secondarily as it relates to the warp and weft of traditional media as it intersects with technology.

That’s it. No one noticed, of course, why would they? Since then the post has accumulated some cruft – six comments in all, mostly spam. But I kept at it, writing into the void, and over time the site accumulated an audience of folks interested in the impact of search on the growing technology business.

At its peak that audience numbered more than 300,000 visitors a month. I was writing upwards of four or five posts a day. Most were pretty mundane, but every week or so I’d push something out that mattered – a rough draft of something that would end up in the book, for example. People started responding, a conversation ensued, and several new projects blossomed – the Web 2 conference, a magazine column, the idea for my next company, which became Federated Media.

Federated got big, and it took most of my time. As it prospered, struggled, and was sold, I wrote here only occasionally. I always felt the guilt of not tending to this particular garden. Friends starting asking me why I wasn’t doing what, in their minds, I was best at.

So I’m resolved to come back to this patch of land and dig around. I don’t expect anyone to notice, and that’s OK. I need to till the soil, clear the rocks and roots, and find out what might grow here. I hope to plant all manner of things mundane and material. Having your own domain means you can experiment, and I sense a new age of experimentation is upon us, finally. I think I’m finally in a place where I can allow myself to start something without really knowing where it’ll end up. Maybe this site will evolve into something personal, maybe I’ll find a subject I’m as passionate about now as I was about search twenty years ago. But one thing I know is this: If I don’t practice, if I don’t make myself sit down and write, I’ll never find out.

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On Leaving the Bay Area

I first moved to the Bay area in 1983. I graduated from high school, spent my summer as an exchange student/day laborer in England (long story), then began studies at Berkeley, where I had a Navy scholarship (another long story).

1983. 35 years ago.

1983 was one year before the introduction of the Macintosh (my first job was covering Apple and the Mac). Ten years before the debut of Wired magazine. Twenty years before I began writing The Search, launching Web 2.0, and imagining what became Federated Media. And thirty years before we launched NewCo and the Shift Forum. It’s a … long fucking time ago.

According to my laptop’s backup program, which daily and plaintively reminds me of my nomadic existence, it’s been 35 days since I left my home in Marin for good. For the past five weeks  (and the next three) my wife, my youngest daughter and I have lived out of suitcases; in hotels and Airbnbs, across ten or so cities: Boulder, Cincinnati, Florence, New Orleans, Middletown (RI), Tisbury, and of course a few visits to New York and the Bay (mainly to see our two older kids, who live in Berkeley now). It’s actually been rather thrilling, to be without an address or a home. But even as we embarked, we knew where we’d eventually end up: We’re moving to New York City.

In the past few weeks we’ve found a home (in West Chelsea, near the High Line), and on August 15th we’ll become eager, anxious, and excited residents of Manhattan.

Taking stock of 35 years is exhausting. Moving from a home that’s borne the weight of your collective memories for so long… well, it forces reckoning, it shakes you by the shoulders, it demands repair. If you’ve been wondering why I’ve not been writing much, why I’ve been relatively quiet after months of nearly daily posts… here you have it.

I can’t explain in a headline, or even a few sentences, why we decided to leave the Bay. But if you’ll bear with me, I’ll do what I do, which is write till I’m done, and hope to explain myself to the extent you might care to know.

First things first: My wife is from New York, and when I courted her from out in California (and I really did court her), I promised that once this Wired thing played out (I foolishly thought it’d be a few years, if that), we’d move back to her home state. Her mother and brother live in New York, and I always have wanted to live there as well. If you’re at heart a writer, a thinker, and a creator of stuff, you have to live at least once in the most vibrant city in the world.

But as things turn out, three years in California stretched to five, then our first child was born, and we moved to a place we loved: Marin.  Replete with a truly majestic mountain, a community of extraordinary humans, and a lifestyle built for sending down roots, Marin lulled us into near senescence. Five more companies and two more children came, and with them a commitment to schools, to people we came to love, to the companies we struggled to build.

But even with all that, over the past five or so years, I’ve felt that the industry which once challenged, thrilled, and engaged me was … missing something. A few things actually. NewCo was, in a small way, my attempt at identifying those things and responding to them. Identifying and celebrating companies that valued mission and purpose over profit and growth, in cities around the world, not just in the Bay area…that seemed the right thing to do five years ago. And while NewCo was not a barn burning success as a business, it thrived as an idea, and along the way my founders and I met incredible leaders, thinkers, and fellow travelers.

But after more than three decades and six companies started in San Francisco, I’m ready to take a break from the West, from the Bay, and from the Valley. Truth be told, the place is starting to annoy me a bit more than I’m comfortable with.

I can rationalize San Francisco’s adolescent fits – it’s trying to grow up, and it’s terrible at it – and it seems our industry is trying to press past its bro culture and blinkered focus on tech for tech’s sake. But to be honest, it’s the lack of networked, lateral thinking that’s left me wanting. It feels like nearly everyone in the Bay area is so busy making companies (guilty), they don’t have time to have conversations about much more than … making companies.

I’ve spent my career chasing essentially one story: the impact of technology on society. Whenever I travel to New York, I find a different approach to that narrative. Sure, folks want to talk shop, but they also want to find connection points to culture, to social issues, to politics, to ideas and to the rest of the world. I feel like a lot of the Valley is habitually talking to itself about things that aren’t that interesting anymore. There’s a much bigger story to chase, and the density of connection and dialog about that story feels way more present in NYC. So I’m headed there, to see what might come of it.

That said, there are thousands of amazing minds in the Valley who are also fascinated by the story I’m chasing. It’s just hard to connect the dots, given how spread out the damn place is – Marin to San Jose can be a two hour slog, both ways. I’ll be back, frequently, but now as a reporter of sorts, with a mission of understanding tech from an outsider’s point of view. I’ve been in NYC at least once a month for the past few decades. Now I’ll be just flipping the bit, as it were.

How does this effect my current work with NewCo and Shift? Not much, truth be told. NewCo’s festivals around the world are now all run by wonderful partners who have them well in hand. The Shift site is moving to a open web domain, and keeping the Medium site as well, so our readers there can stay in touch with us. And Shift Forum will continue, but probably be a bit later than usual this coming year, given the disruption this move has driven through my life. I’m in remarkable conversations with a number of folks about what else I might do in New York, and as those conversations yield news, I’ll keep you guys informed about them here.

So for now, goodbye, Bay area, and thank you for making me who I am. And hello, New York – I’m a bit nervous about what you have in store, but I’m jumping in without reservation. If you live there, let me know. I look forward to the conversation.

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A Week of Contemplation and Thanks

I’m not writing as much as I’d like, either for the book, or here, on Searchblog or its “Four Letter Words” cousin. I hope to change that this coming week, as I settle back into my writing shack. I had family in town this past week, and I couldn’t very well isolate myself, much as I may have wanted to (at times, I’ll be honest, I did).

But the past week or so have had many fine moments of friends, family, and other wonderful things. Here are a few images of them.

Today we took a strenuous hike up the hill behind our house (it’s called Bald Hill, and it’s about 1100 feet up). We went mainly off trail, and found a buddah sitting on a rocky outcropping, facing West, into the setting sun. This statue was at 800 feet above sea level, and weighed at least forty pounds. Someone worked very hard to get it into position, and it really made our day. Thanks to whoever did that, this is our way of paying it forward….

Here’s the same fellow, in profile (that’s Mt. Tam in the distance):

This led to some contemplation by my daughter, who found the statue.

Here’s my son doing his impression, somewhat backwards, as is his want….

A holiday week means we can put some work in on my favorite hobby, which is playing with the (literal) garage band. We’re not pros, nor do we pretend to be. But being part of a community of guys who just want to play better is perhaps the best thing that’s happened to me this past year. Here’s what our whiteboard looked like last week:

If you don’t recognize some of those tunes, it’s because we’re also writing our own stuff. Never fear, Band of Horses, your day job is safe.

The week before last, I was honored with an award for innovation in the Bay Area by sfBIG (the Hal Riney Award). It was an incredible night, and I was asked to give a talk. It was wild to go down memory lane and remember the things I’ve been a part of for the past 25 years. I found this old cover of the first magazine where I worked, MacWEEK, and also, some old (and very fat) Industry Standards:

I started there in 1987.

That top issue had 225 pages of ads in it. Talk about fat!

My first slide was simply: Wow.

And yes, there was much wine over the past week (I’m still drying out!), but I’ll save those shots for another post. This one’s getting a bit long as it is. Thanks to those of you who read these “Four Letter Word” posts. It’s a nice place to put some memories – a place that feels more intimate and real to me than Facebook or places like it. Have a great week….

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A Moment To Appreciate The Place Between

Less than an hour North of  San Francisco lies a network of small towns that exist utterly detached from the hamster wheel of our nation’s obsession with technology. They have names like Dogtown, Bolinas, Forrest Knolls, and Olema. Somehow, they’ve managed to escape most trappings of gentrification. They feel authentic, real, and fragile – rather like hummingbirds feeding on flowers despite a gathering storm (or perhaps in spite of it). And I get to drive through them almost daily, because I’ve made Stinson Beach my new office (for more on that, see Time To Begin, Again).

Northern California has always meant the world to me, but moving my base of work close to these places has cemented my love for this special patch of the world. Today I left my hut on the coast and rode my bike up and over the 2,000 foot barrier between the surreal – where fairies dance – and the very real – where most of us live and labor to produce the information economy (also known, in this case, as Mill Valley – fast becoming the Brooklyn of San Francisco).

Here’s a picture of the view from the divide between the two. Looking, as always, to the west.

PS – I posted this picture earlier on Instagram, but that just wasn’t good enough.

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A Worthy Wine: Orin Swift Abstract

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted in Four Letter Words, forgive me. I’ve still been riding, and drinking, of course. Just busy launching another thing, OpenCoSF. But tonight I took a step back and took my wife out to our favorite place, and we noticed a new wine on the menu, from the makes of The Prisoner. It’s called Abstract, and it’s got a wonderful etched label to which this picture does not do justice. But it’s moderately priced (for a wine from Orin Swift), and it’s a wonderful drinker. So go get it if you can.

And yes, I’ve not stopped riding. Here’s the view from the top of Tam on Saturday. The Bay was alive with boats – Fleet Week, the America’s Cup, the Giants in the playoffs, the Blue Angels….great day.

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Catching Up on Life: Summer

It’s been a while since I’ve posted images and such from the other side of life. It’s been a rather strange, disjointed, fast-paced summer. No long breaks, no monumental family vacations. A lot more work than I’d like. But time for riding, mountains, and wine…and pictures of same. So to them:

My family has been going to Mammoth Lakes, California since the 1960s. My mother has a place there, and this is her dog, who lives to swim after sticks in Sierra lakes. Not a bad living…That’s Crystal Crag in the background for anyone who knows the area.



This is one of the many single tracks from the top of Mammoth Mountain down – this is the backside of the mountain, looking out toward the lakes and across to the Southern Sierra. That’s my son on the trail. We had a great day riding the mountain, which included some pretty ridiculous technical stuff, even some man-made nuttiness where you get essentially sideways, to wit:

 Yes, I did ride this. Several times. And yes, I don’t have any idea how or why I did. And it wasn’t even close to the scariest part of the trails.

More relaxing was the fishing, earlier in July in Colorado, then again in Mammoth/Yosemite. Here’s me, with a happy “I’m fishing and I don’t care if I catch anything” grin:


No, I didn’t catch anything. And nope, I didn’t care. That’s Convict Peak in the background, for those of you keeping track at home. It’s also called Mt. Morrison, but not to locals.

 This is Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. My son and I tried our luck in the river, but mainly the adolescent trout were rising when we were there. No matter. I mean, look at the scenery. Who cares.

Besides Mammoth, we had another “mini-vacation” – I took the whole family to the Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco. A great lineup, a great group of friends, and three days of pure music. A few shots:

A highlight was the renunion of Grandaddy, one of my family’s favorite bands. They played just about everything we wished they would. This is the drummer, who really did not look like Aaron Burch. But he smoked himself about ten cigs during the set. If that is Aaron, well, time has not been exactly kind.

Of course, highlights included Metallica:

(Love those flames!) ….and Stevie Wonder:

 We saw dozens of other bands, and we had some wonderful wine, including this vintage from Dave Matthews, courtesy of our friends at his management company Red Light:

 This is Dreaming Tree Cab, and the label was drawn by Matthews himself, I am told. We really enjoyed it, but I’m sure the music in the background helped…

Which leads me to a few key vintages for your consideration. In no particular order, above is the Chateau St. Michelle, which I love, and not just because it shares a name with my wife. It’s just a great drinking wine right now, and not expensive.

And while the last wine *sounded* French, this one actually is. We have four or five bottles of this in the band room, as you can see. Chateau Les Gravieres, 2001. Both came from WTSO, which I highly recommend.

This Tablas Creek meritage was a surprise, we had it at our favorite place, Picco, just last week. A bit pricey, but very nice on first blush. Didn’t age well in the glass, I am afraid.

And not for the faint  of heart, but this Handy sazerac is 140 proof. Yep. You read that right.

And lastly, one shot of my new favorite trail in Marin – Willow Camp, which drops down to Stinson Beach from the top of the coastal range. I know. It’s not fair.  I got to ride this trail three times in the past month. I guess looking back, it was a pretty good summer after all. Thanks for visiting….

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