February 4, 2024

Lately — January 2024 edition

Movies & TV

I went on a bit of a cult documentary binge, watching Love Has WonHoly Hell, and both docs about Twin Flames Universe — Escaping Twin Flames and Desperately Seeking Soulmate. These were all good — I think these types of docs are at their best when they treat their subjects with empathy and avoid sensationalizing. There's a great interview at the LA Times with Hannah Olsen, the director of Love Has Won. She talks a lot about her approach, explaining that "My storytelling rule is you don’t really get to talk about it unless you were there."


I'm trying to have a better balance of reading both books and long-form articles this year, so I set a very conservative goal of reading a book a month. So far so good — I read 2 books. Stories of Your Life and Others was fantastic, my favorite short story was Understand. I'm surprised it hasn't been made into a movie — apparently a spec script was written in 2014 but hasn't been developed yet. Do Interesting was OK — super quick read and had some good practical advice, but I think I need to read it again in a more active mindset for it to be effective.

Two articles I read in January stood out. The Quiet Death of Ello's Big Dreams by Andy Baio was a great story about startup idealism versus the reality of venture funding. A Second Life for My Beloved Dog (Apple News+ link) by Charlie Warzel is both a heartfelt remembrance of his pup and an ode to the unexpected ability of technology to bring gratitude to our lives. "The dynamic wallpaper offers something else: quiet moments in my day that stop me in my tracks and promote reflection, rather than engagement. My phone’s operating system has taught me how to grieve."


The Rural Alberta Advantage (that just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?) has dominated my playlist for the past month, I really dig their sound.

I saw Explosions in the Sky (fellas, gotta get that secure https link going) at The Wiltern. These guys never fail to blow the roof off the building. I love that they do a tight 90 minute set, no encore. All business!


My younger daughter is a birder, and I finally started using Merlin, the app from Cornell that helps you identify our feathered friends. The name is perfect — this app is straight up magic. You let it rip and it just starts listing birds it hears. Shout out to the Black Phoebes in my yard that we watched hatch as babies several months ago.


On a personal note, I finally updated my design portfolio at Fallon Design with a better format for the project pages that hopefully makes it much more readable. At some point soon I'm going to retire that domain and bring everything over here.

January 20, 2024

Favorite things of 2023


  • Sofa — Apple TV is slowly becoming my hub to collect and queue TV and movies to watch, but there's still a need to create multiple watchlists, track other media types (podcasts, books, music, apps, etc.), and look back on what I consumed. Sofa handles this all with intuitive and flexible iPhone & iPad apps.
  • Things — The to-do app that runs my life. It's everywhere I need it (iPhone/iPad/desktop/watch/Siri) and beautifully designed.
  • Apple Books — Still giving it a proper run after many years of using Kindle, but I'm liking the Reading Goals feature.
  • Ivory — After saying goodbye to Twitter and switching to Mastodon, Ivory was the natural choice after being a longtime subscriber to Tweetbot. The polished experience is exactly what'd you'd expect from Tapbots.


I got into the habit of playing games on a daily basis sometime last year. I look forward to it every morning and it gives me a mental boost.

  • Immaculate Grid — I don't play this daily any more, but for a couple months I was obsessed. Me and a couple friends would geek out in an Immaculate Grid war room I built in Google Sheets and try to come up with "sicko" rarity scores.
  • Connections — Played this pretty much every day for the past 6 months. Me and a friend also play a game within the game to try and solve it in order of hardest to easiest groups.
  • Apple News+ Crosswords — Also play these every day. There's a regular and a mini, and they're more accessible than the NY Times (deliberately — Apple News proudly claimed they "eliminate the opaque and coded language often seen in crossword clues") so I can usually knock them both out in under 15 mins.
  • Puzzmo — Cool new puzzle platform with unique games. I play the crossword daily, which has more of a taste of the "coded language" not as prevalent in Apple News+ puzzles (but still usually solvable in 10 minutes or so).
  • Unsolved Case Files — These challenging murder mystery games have become our family's go-to activity for vacations. We did one on a trip with extended family a couple summers ago, and it was all we could talk or think about for the 2 days it took us to solve it.


The lack of a commute has severely limited the amount of time available to listen to podcasts, but I make time for these.

  • Armchair Anonymous — Everyone has at least one great story to tell. This weekly episode that's part of Armchair Expert features listeners anonymously calling in and telling their most profane, disgusting, and hilarious personal stories.
  • If Books Could Kill — Michael and Peter hilariously and thoroughly debunk bestselling pop culture books like "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" and "The 4 Hour Workweek".
  • Design Details — Brian and Marshall go deep on relevant UI/UX topics, and the One Cool Thing segment is always worth it (it's where I first heard about the Sofa app).
  • Layout — I'm bummed that I was late to the game on Kevin and Rafa's fantastic discussions on all things design, but glad I got to catch it for a while before they retired the show back in July. Also totally worth it for their recommendations.
  • Sleep Baseball — What a fantastic concept — fake old timey baseball broadcasting as a sleep aid, or more succinctly "baseball radio ASMR" as they call it. Great writeup at the New Yorker with all the inside baseball.


There were a handful of shows from last year that were uncontroversially great — Succession, The Bear, The Last of Us, Barry, Ted Lasso, The White Lotus, etc. I loved those, but also enjoyed a few that may be less broadly known.

  • Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence — It's mind-blowing what people will do when they're under the influence of a high-control individual.
  • American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing — I remember how big of a story this was when it happened, but retelling it 10 years later really brings into focus how traumatic the events were.
  • The Diplomat — Took a few episodes to get into it, but once it got going it was hilarious and thrilling.
  • Dave — This show came out of nowhere, and I binged the heck out of it.
  • Shrinking — A little too irreverent at times, but overall it struck a good balance of comedy and earnestness. Jessica Williams is fantastic.
  • Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan — The first season was it's high point, but nonetheless still a fun, fast-paced action series.
  • Jury Duty — Fun concept, pretty amazing they were able to pull it off.
  • How To with John Wilson — You never know where each episode will lead, but there are some truly heartfelt moments of genuine human connection in most episodes.
  • The Leftovers — I started this years ago and didn't get through the first couple episodes. Not sure why it captured me this time, but I suspect it's much more relatable in a post-COVID world.
  • The Fall of the House of Usher — Visually beautiful, and does a great job creating a cohesive story out of many different Poe references.


I'm not a big movie watcher, so I'm usually late to the party on the crop of good movies any given year.

  • Everything Everywhere All at Once — What a ride — sprawling, ambitious, and utterly enjoyable.
  • Bullet Train — Just a good old-fashioned "bunch of hitmen all trying to get the same thing" romp.
  • Nope — My favorite Jordan Peele movie. When they discover proof of how the UFO/alien conceals itself, I literally said "Holy shit!" out loud.
  • The Thing — Had never seen this — the effects are stunning for a 40+ year old movie.
  • Get Out — Finally completed the Jordan Peele trifecta. 


  • Narrow Head — I’d never even heard of these guys until I saw them at a small place in Highland Park in June. Blew my face off, reminded me of Helmet and Deftones. Six months later, they’re the #2 artist in my Apple Music Replay.
  • M83 — I thought I knew who M83 was ("car commercial band", some would say), and headed out to see them in LA in October not expecting much. Turns out they have some epic, heavier songs and also ended up near the top of my Replay.
  • Taylor Swift — My daughter scored tickets to one of the shows at SoFi, and it was nothing short of a religious experience. Maybe the most wholesome thing I’ve ever seen.
  • U2 — Saw them at The Sphere in Las Vegas. Words can't convey how immersive the video experience inside is, it's like nothing I've ever seen before.
  • Death Cab for Cutie / The Postal Service — Saw the 20th anniversary tour at the Hollywood Bowl. Death Cab opened wearing all black and played from Transatlanticism, then Postal Service came out wearing all white and played from Give Up.

Blogs & newsletters

  • FanGraphs — Consistently pumps out fascinating baseball analysis. Somewhere on my long list of future side projects is a quiz game where you're shown 4 FanGraphs article titles and you have to pick the one written by Michael Baumann.
  • Dense Discovery — My favorite newsletter, DD consistently surfaces apps, articles, and books I don't read about elsewhere.
  • Mike Masnick — His articles at Techdirt during the upheaval at Twitter were essential reading.
  • Daring Fireball — Gruber continues to be the go-to for all things Apple-related, and he always connects his writing back to the bigger picture in tech.
  • Tom MacWright — I love Tom's pragmatic, thoughtful insights on not just trends in tech, but the lived experience of building products as well.

General internet

  • r/baseball — The perfect complement to FanGraphs, I love dropping in to see what the common folk are talking about in the world of baseball. Every now and then something magical happens like the guy who drew Mike Trout every day during the 2021–2022 lockout.

March 12, 2023

The best time to start a blog

Start a blog, plant a tree — anything, really.

John Siracusa, celebrating the 20th anniversary of his blog, concluded that "The best time to start a blog is 20 years ago. The second-best time is today." His take on the classic proverb about planting a tree painfully resonates with me. I started a blog 20 years ago, but stopped updating it after a couple years. "Start a blog" has been on my New Year's resolutions list every year since.

In the early 2000s when I was just starting out as a web designer (as we were called before UI/UX/interaction/product design titles were part of the vernacular), designlaunchpad.com was my first big personal side project. Every 2 weeks I wrote "issues" offering guidance to other designers looking to make their way in the still somewhat new world of designing for the internet. This was before blogs were called blogs and posts were called posts, apparently. I even had links to download issues as PDFs, so you could print them to read on the go (no smartphones yet!).

Designlaunchpad.com circa 2002. That baby is now a man and still earning residuals.

Designlaunchpad.com expanded beyond mainly offering issues, and became my playground as a young designer. I had free reign to experiment with layout and branding. I built up my skills in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP. I made custom desktop icons, wallpapers, fonts, and Photoshop brushes available to download. I set up a forum and a mailing list. I added a Notes section that was built on b2, a PHP publishing platform that was eventually called WordPress (maybe you've heard of it?)

Design Launchpad logo explorations from 2004. It's cute that I non-ironically included a trademark symbol on each one.

My burgeoning design empire slowly started gathering dust once my wife and I had kids. After a few years of unsuccessfully trying to dedicate time and energy to revive the site, I officially threw in the towel in 2006. I posted a sad announcement on the home page that I was shuttering the site:

It has been over 3 years since Design Launchpad has been updated. I’m tired of looking at the old site, so I’m shutting it down to force myself to put something new up. It could be months away, it could be years away, or it could never happen at all.

The web is littered with promises of writing more, followed by apologies for not writing more, followed by radio silence. So I'm not going to make any promises here. But looking back on the work I did on Design Launchpad, I realized that my goal to "start a blog" is really just a desire to have a personal project to consistently direct my energy at. And more broadly speaking, this exercise serves as a reminder that today is also the 2nd best time to start a lot of other things — getting in shape, connecting with friends, etc.

So cheers to that — I'll see you in 20 years.

December 16, 2019

Voronoi Oatmeal

For the past several months, I've been locked in on the same meal for breakfast during the work week. Oatmeal and water mixed with egg whites, almond butter, chocolate protein powder, and topped with exactly 17 semi-sweet chocolate chips (10g when weighed). It occurred to me today that I've been subconsciously visualizing a Voronoi diagram in my bowl as I decide how to best optimize getting a chocolate chip (or 2, depending how they cluster) in every bite.

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