It's officially official, I'm moving to Zurich by end of the year!

I'm moving!

I've mentioned the possibility that I might move to my closest friends, but I didn't get final word until a few days ago, so I thought I'd say something publicly about it now...

Some background:

-- Living in Europe has been a dream of mine for years. I've visited the UK and Italy, but that's about it (airports in other countries don't count). There's so much else there I want to experience and from what I hear, Zurich is an excellent hub for traveling around the region.
-- My new project that's getting me over there is the reason I wanted to work at Google in the first place... tackling the issue of information overload head-on. I'm just as excited about this new project as I am about the move.
-- This is something that's been in the works for months... Google is supportive of facilitating these kinds of transfers, but a lot of things have to come together to make them happen. I have many colleagues and friends to thank for helping me out with this opportunity and to them, I am eternally grateful.
-- I'll be there for at least a year and I'm not sure what I'll do after that. I'm pretty thrilled about this aspect of the adventure.
-- I should be relocated sometime towards the end of December. I'll probably do some kind of combo going away/bday party with my bay area peeps before I leave so stay tuned on Facebook for info on that.

Other notables:

-- I'll continue to work on my previous project, Sidewiki, at least for the foreseeable future as it's something I'm still very close to and want to see succeed.
-- I'm going to miss my friends a lot, but I'm hoping you'll all come visit me! Zurich is easily accessed by train or cheap flights from within the EU, so if you find yourself visiting Europe in 2010, put ZRH on your list!
-- I'm incredibly excited to be near Berlin and Paris... two places I've never visited, but have heard so many good things about. My good buddy Jeff is in Berlin and Nathan is in Paris, so it will be fantastic to see them more often.
-- I'll be making the switch after many years of working on client software to working mainly on web and mobile based projects. I'm going to use this opportunity to get back into coding and doing more interactive prototypes.
-- Google's Zurich office is supposed to be super sweet and I'm looking forward to having a smaller company feel for awhile.
-- Skiing and snowboarding are two things I have very little experience with... I'm crossing my fingers that they'll have some bunny hills out there to practice on.
-- I plan to take German lessons and want to make sure I branch out from just socializing with my coworkers. I've heard it can be tough as an outsider to make friends in Zurich, but I'm hoping I can find some fellow music lovers as a way to bridge the gap.
-- I purged a fair amount of my stuff when I moved to SF, but not near as much as I would've liked. I'm going to use this next move as a way to finally slim it all down to just the bare essentials. I've got the international Kindle now so I won't need to take as many books with me and I'm digitizing all of my cds onto a mirrored drive. The only bulky thing that remains is my vinyl collection... I won't have enough time to digitize my records before I leave, so I'll probably just keep them in storage unless someone in the bay area wants to babysit them while I'm gone. I'm hoping to go the projector route finally too as a way to have a more mobile entertainment center.

I take my first trip to Zurich this Friday with a few days in the UK at the end, during which I'm hoping to catch Ryuichi Sakamoto perform his piano pieces in Burmingham (!!!!!!!!).

This new move is probably a good chance to retire my public LJ as well which I haven't been updating that often thanks to Twitter and Facebook. I'll continue to use it for friends-only posts (still baffled that no one else has come up with a better replacement for this), but I think it's time I wrote more often on something I can fully control like WordPress. I'll put a note here once that's live.

Chocolate, fondue, timely public transportation, army knives, fancy time pieces, and neutrality await. Uf Widerluege!

Where I find out about new musics

I've been asked a few times by friends and co-workers where I discover new music. There's not one magical resource... it's a mixture of things, the main source being other music obsessed friends. Social networking sites have particularly made it easier than ever to get the word out about the proverbial "good shit" with minimal effort. In the interest of spreading the love out a little further (and actually having a good answer the next time someone asks), here's a list of my favorite places to discover new music online...

I'll admit, this post was just an elaborate excuse to us this amazing photo by t4tO_

1. Basic Sounds: http://basic_sounds.blogspot.com
Genres: techno/idm/ambient/dubstep

Canada's number 1 export if you ask me... no one even comes close to getting the word out about up n' coming artists and new releases in the world of non-cheesy electronic dance music. You won't find any Tiesto's or PVD's here... but you may just find your album of the year or maybe your new favorite visual artist.

2. Aquarius Records: http://aquariusrecordsblog.blogspot.com & http://www.aquariusrecords.org
Genres: eclectic/ambient/drone/indie

Aquarius is my favorite record store on the planet. The staff take their job seriously when it comes to finding the coolest under-represented music from all over the world and exposing them to their loyal patrons. I can't even count how many great records I've gotten from here that I've never seen talked about anywhere else. What makes them so unique? They...

-- hand pick 1-3 records each week which helps narrow down the overwhelming amount of new stuff they get in
-- write up great reviews for the main new releases and tape them on the cds to read in the store or from the website at home
-- provide sound clips for all the main releases so you can preview before you buy
-- have the super-nerdiest-music-nerd staff that can make excellent recommendations

I could go on and on about Aquarius, they're amazing.

3. The Quiet Sounds: http://www.asphalteden.com/
Genres: Ambient

I can't say enough about asphalteden's ambient podcast. Brian has impeccable taste in music and deep knowledge about this genre which comes through in his mixes. You haven't fallen asleep until you've done so with one of these playing in the background!

4. Spreading Neurotoxins: http://spreadingneurotoxins.blogspot.com
Genres: Indie rock/electronic/ambient/metal/shoegaze

This is sort of like the rock version of Basic Sounds. An occasional electronic release makes it on here too, but the focus is definitely on the rock side. Fantastic.

5. connexion: the selector: http://www.theselector.org
Genres: Shoegazer/indie rock/eclectic mixes

Great group of contributors to this blog where you can find individual tracks and awesome mixes.

6. Pitchfork's "Best new albums" page: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/best/
Genres: Indie rock/electronic

Not much to add here since Pitchfork is pretty common knowledge, but this particular URL is nice as a way to keep up with only the highest rated reviews. I disagree with a lot of Pitchfork's ratings (basically 99% of bands they love that have whiny sounding singers), but for the most part, they still know what's up.

7. I Found this Song in the Road: http://songsfromtheroad.blogspot.com
Love Will Tear Us Apart: http://disorderyan.blogspot.com
The Passion of Indie Music: http://indiepassion.blogspot.com
Genres: Indie rock

I'll count these three together since they're quite similar, but definitely worth checking out if you like this genre.

8. Richfourfour: http://fourfour.typepad.com/fourfour/mixes
Genres: Dance mixes/90s hip-house

I've posted about Rich's essential new jack swing mixes before, but all of his mixes are worth mentioning again. When he's not spending the majority of his time blogging about reality tv and making hilarious animated gifs, he puts together seriously fun party mixes that are great for working out to as well.

9. Essential house: http://essentialhouse.blogspot.com/
Genres: House, duh!

It'd be impossible to download and listen to every single song posted here, but I do enjoy scanning the lists and picking a few from time to time. Another great resource for anyone that plays parties regularly.

10. Santiago Salazar: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.ListAll&friendId=64659649
Genres: House/Techno

Ever since I caught Santiago's Red Bull Academy set in Seattle, I was hooked. I don't actively keep up with house, but I feel like my curiosity is satiated by the mixes he regularly posts on his MySpace blog. (Note: downloading them is a little tricky... look for the down arrow icon in the music player widgets)

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stuff I do not see the appeal of

snej had a good idea for a post. There are "heavier" things that I don't get like religion or torture, but here's my version of some trivial stuff in random order:

01. the majority of rock bands on Pitchfork. Particularly male-fronted jangle rock stuff like The Decemberists
02. Harry Potter
03. musicals
04. bland house and techno. I love these genres, but can't stand when I hear the generic sounding stuff.
05. yelling at other cars that exhibit bad behavior or at the TV
06. getting worked up over stupid silly stuff in general (e.g. Tour de France dudes on the Golden Gate Bridge that look super pissed waiting behind tourists)
07. fake breasts
08. MySpace for anyone over 18
09. perpetually full inboxes (you're doing it wrong)
10. in a similar vein... having a desktop full of icons
11. Spending fortunes on mansions, sports cars, gold plated cell phones, etc
12. 99% of reality TV and shows like American Idol
13. video games that have no end (MMORPGS). This doesn't apply to arcade or puzzle games.
14. video games that don't give you any help if you're stuck and repeating the same thing over and over again (Grand Theft Auto). And no, I don't want to have to use a damn strategy guide.
15. Tweeting any variant of "good night"
16. posting "RIP" anyone famous to a social network (without explaining why that person was important to you)
17. posting any news headline that can easily be found on CNN.com or any other major news site
18. cheap beer
19. leaving your bicycle unattended (or poorly locked up) for even a split second in a major city
20. wedge shoes
21. dressing your little kids (or pets) in outfits that make them look like tiny adults (the most egregious offender)
22. obsessive documentation of vacations
23. standing right next to the speaker at loud concerts (with no hearing protection)

Stuff from snej's list that I like, but he doesn't:

1. Asparagus (this is my favorite vegetable!)
2. Autotune, yea, even the subtlest usage thereof (I think it can be used well in certain instances)
3. Cassette tapes (I don't use them anymore, but they did have their utility ... I particularly liked the ability to pick up right where you left off :)
6. Daft Punk (we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one)
17. New Order, post-1982 ("Republic" was the first album of theirs I purchased, so I have a special connection to it. Agreed though that their earlier stuff was more innovative and unique)
23. Shrimp [with or without the tails on] (wow, I've had so many delicious shrimp dishes, not sure where to start on this one)
27. Vinyl records [unless you are a skilled DJ] (I still like having my vinyl around. For certain types of music, it just gives me warm fuzzies to listen on vinyl vs mp3. It's also fun to play and look through other people's records)

Stuff I can see the appeal of, but just haven't made it a priority to check out yet:

1. Mad Men
2. Battlestar Galactica
3. Mighty Boosh
4. District 9
5. Skydiving
6. Hang gliding
7. Lasik

A love letter to running

This is a post I've been meaning to write for some time... it's essentially a long way of repeating the old adage, "don't know what you've got, till it's gone." In this case, that thing is running.


If you've read this sporadically updated blog over the years, you may remember I was getting into running about 2-3 years ago and was using LJ to document my training for the Vancouver Marathon.

Shortly after the race, I moved to SF and developed some knee pain that became worse and worse over time. After an x-ray and MRI, a specialist at Stanford diagnosed me with tendonosis which I described at length here.

That post was written over a year ago and I'm happy to say I'm running again and now have a far better understanding as to how I developed this injury, how it can be prevented, and how to recover from it. Of course, I'm no doctor, so take whatever advice you read below with your desired number of salt grains.

How did I get tendonosis?

1. Running long distances with poor form

While I was aware of different forms of running, I never gave it much thought when I was training. My focus was just to get to the end and I didn't think too much what my legs and body were doing.

This led me to:

-- plant my feet down much harder than needed
-- run with poor posture
-- run through joint pain

Regarding this last point... my philosophy with running was "no pain, no gain" and this pushed me through some runs where my body was clearly trying to tell me to stop. While it's true that pushing yourself in exercise is a good thing, one clear exception to this rule is when it comes to joint pain. Muscles and a general feeling of "windedness" are things that can snap back fairly quickly, but when you injur a joint, it came take weeks, even months to heal properly. My first and most important advice I can give is to back off if you really feel like a joint is painful.

2. Hills

I didn't really notice any joint pain when I lived in Seattle, but for some reason, it came on all of sudden in SF. One of the culprits here is hills. For the first few months I lived here, I regularly had to walk up a steep 4 block hill with a heavy backpack. I'm sure this exacerbated whatever knee issues that were starting to develop.

3. Sitting for long periods of time in a confined position

For 10+ hours a week, I commute on a shuttle where my knee is forced into a 90 degree angle so as not to play footsies with my neighbor. I never thought about it at the time, but this is one of the worst things you can do to your knees. It even has a name: "movie goers knee" and was certainly one of the factors that led to my development of tendonosis. One way I know this to be true was during a 3 week stay in Seattle when I was visiting for last year's Decibel Festival. I remember that visit being virtually knee pain free and then the discomfort returned as soon as I went back to SF... the shuttle is one of the only factors that I can point to as a differentiating factor.

How did I recover?

Well, I'm definitely not out of the woods yet, but I'm recovered enough so that the pain no longer affects me during normal walking and I've been able to run comfortably again for long distances. Here are some of the things I did to get to this point:

1. Rest

I took a long long break from running. Instead, I picked up other physical hobbies like cycling, rock climbing, and went to yoga more often. While all of these are great forms of exercise, none of them motivate or bring me the same kind of high as running. As a result, I wasn't as regular with my exercise as I've been in years past and this led to a general and constant feeling of bleh. Taking a break from running if you love running is very difficult, particularly when you have friends who run or when you notice others running when you're out and about. There are feelings of inferiority, jealousy, and angst. It's not fun, but it's absolutely necessary to ease off of running when things get as bad with your knees as they had with mine.

2. Eccentric exercise and yoga

Sigfús Víkþörðson's eccentric exercise protocol was key in my knee's rehabilitation. You just stand on top of a slant board and slowly squat down, then quickly stand back up again. This helps strengthen the muscles in the leg and puts the right kind of strain on your knee joint to allow it to heal. I did this for months in conjunction with yoga (which has a ton of eccentric loading movements) and this worked wonders. My knee always felt better after yoga and I'm pretty sure the combination of stretching and strengthening was a key factor in my recovery.

3. Ice

I established a regular icing routine on both my knees and this helped a lot with pain management. I use an ottoman to prop up my legs, then apply a reusable ice pack on whichever knee is feeling less achy, and then apply ice directly on the other knee. The best way to directly ice is with a styrofoam cup. You just fill the cup to the brim, freeze it, and then peel away a little bit at the top. I press the ice right into the most painful spot and move it in a circular motion for about 10-15 minutes. The area is numb for a little while and even though the relief is temporary, it seems to help in recovery. Ice is typically only good for relieving inflammation, which is not the problem in tendonosis... so I'm willing to admit this may be a placebo affect. Same goes for taking aspirin/ibuprofen. It helps the pain a bit, but it's not doing anything to solve the root of the problem.

4. Sitting position

When I'm at home, I always keep my legs straight out in front of me on the aforementioned ottoman. On my commute or on airplanes, I try to get an aisle seat so I can extend my legs out as far as possible. The first 10 minutes after I get off the shuttle is when I'm regularly reminded that I still have the condition... so this may be one of those things I'll just have to live with forever.

5. Massage

I cannot say enough about massage. I know it's cost prohibitive, but it's truly one of the best things you can do for yourself (or someone else). It never ceases to amazes me how much tension I'm storing up in my muscles. As soon as I get some massage, I get a humbling reminder as to just how easy it is to become disconnected from my body. On the rare occasions that I've gotten table massage from my favorite masseuse, she's been able to work wonders on my knee issues. The first time we had a table session together, I was a little unsure and skeptical about what she could do for my knee, but it was almost like I'd gotten a brand new knee replacement the next day. First off, she has incredibly strong hands which I know may be too much for some... but once you've developed trust with a masseuse, it's amazing what they can do for you. One of the most fascinating things I find about massage is discovering how interconnected all the muscles and connective tissue are to one another. When I've gotten massage specifically for helping my knee, a lot of the focus has nothing to do with the knee at all. Instead, she focuses on my hips, thighs, and yes, buttock muscles... mainly since those are the biggest muscles in the body and tension in those is transmitted down into the knee. These sessions are intense... it's not often we ever get anyone poking and prodding on our legs... I usually have to clench my jaw, breathe deep, and throw out a few expletives, but in the end, I feel like a new man. If I had to choose a second career, it would definitely be as a masseuse... I wish we put more attention on body work in the west. Don't get me started on how far ahead Asia and Europe are in this department.

6. Soft/flat surfaces

Related to my prior poor running form are the surfaces I chose to run on. Sidewalks are the absolute worst on your body. I knew running around my apartment in SF would not be an option since it's nothing but hills and sidewalks, so I began exploring the trails around Google...

These are perfect for rehab running. They're flat, long, and consist of soft asphalt and gravel trails. I started off running at a snail, old-man pace... 4 miles, 5, 6... eventually getting myself back up to 10. Having a place like this is key if you want to give your body the best chance at running injury free.

7. ChiRunning

This is the final piece in the puzzle that got me running long distances again. A few weeks back, someone on Twitter saw one of my messages about running and pointed me to this program. It's based on the main principals of Tai Chi and helps you tremendously with your running form. I watched the dvd and started applying the technique during my runs. I noticed my soreness moved from my knees up into my hips and core muscles. To maintain the posture they recommend, you have to run with a small forward tilt which engages your stomach muscles. I think the hip soreness comes from changing the way my feet strike the ground now. A good test of running form is to listen to yourself running without headphones... you should have silent ninja feet. Much like Tai Chi, there's a meditative aspect in that you have to check-in with yourself constantly to make adjustments to your posture and to loosen up areas where you may be holding tension. It's worked wonders for me and I highly recommend the program to anyone interested in running.

A few other odds n' ends...

-- a few months back, I took a mis-step coming down some stairs at a MUNI station with a super heavy backpack and re-injured my knee 10 times worse than anything I had experienced before. Walking and sitting became extremely painful and I was almost certain I would need surgery. This may have been one of the factors that got me running again. Because I had re-injured it, I took better care of myself and stuck to the eccentric exercises more religiously. Who knows... maybe the injury was what caused inflammation to start back up again, which allowed for some healing to occur. Moral of the story... sometimes things have to get a lot worse before they get better.

-- The pain will move. During my first few runs, I noticed my left knee was now starting to act up. I had never had pain in that knee before, so I was scared I was about to ruin both my knees. Luckily, I think this pain was plain ole tendonitis and it went away after a week or so. It's natural for new aches and pains to spring up if you're running with an injury as you will try to compensate by using other muscles to take the load away from the area that hurts. They should go away over time.

And now for that love letter...

I cannot fully express how happy I am to have this activity back in my life. Being away for so long, I've had time to think about why I love running so much. Let me count a few of the ways...

1. Running is the best exercise for someone who is lazy.

No, I am not kidding. I can't think of anything more simple than running. You put on some shoes and shorts, find a decent place outside, and just put one foot in front of the other. There isn't a whole lot of gear to mess with... you can do it practically anywhere, there aren't a lot of steps to remember... nothing really changes while you're doing it (like with weights or yoga). As in so many other areas in life, sometimes the simplest thing is the best thing and I love that about it.

2. Music

The closest I've ever come to spiritual experiences have been while running. Most of my longer runs always go the same way... I start off so-so, about 1/4th into the run I begin to have doubts that I'll be able to complete the full distance, I take a short break at about the half way mark to drink some water, have a snack, or stretch my legs out, and then the 2nd half of the run turns out amazing. This is largely in part to the power of music. Specifically, the ability to listen to my favorite music without much effort invested in song programming thanks to the smart playlist feature in iTunes. Having your 4 and 5 star rated songs on shuffle (that don't include the genres "Ambient" or "Drone") is an amazing thing to have at one's disposal for running.

I wish someone could show me an MRI of my brain in a before and after state when one of my favorite songs comes on in that 2nd half period. Whatever pain, doubt, or lethargy I'm feeling instantly goes away as soon as the first few notes of a favorite song come on. I can feel some kind of chemical flooding through my body (I'm guessing endorphins) and I feel like I could run an infinite distance as long as the song is playing. Everything feels like it's in harmony... my environment, the song, birds flying by, the run... we're all in unison. I probably look like a crazy person when I'm running... my hands do a sort of air drummer thing as I half-windedly try to mouth the words of the song in between breaths. There is no better way to listen to music than running outdoors. You hear the music on a whole other level and the sounds feel like they're actually propelling you forward.

3. The spill-over effect

If you've read Dr. Medina's Brain Rules, perhaps you'll remember something called BDNF. Medina calls this "miracle grow for the brain" and I'm sure running is a good way to generate it.

When I'm running, everything else in my life seems to go much smoother. Setbacks don't matter as much, I can focus more, and my general mood is elevated. Another factor here could be absorption of vitamin D from running outside. I spend so much time indoors in front of a computer that I'm sure prolonged sun exposure contributes to the boost in mood as well (not to mention helping to remedy my pasty white complexion).

I think I've gotten my point across now... running is awesome in the truest sense of the word. I hope I can continue to run injury free for the rest of my life. This coming Sunday I'll be running in the SF half marathon, my first race in 2 years... as Borat would say, "I very excite!" I'll leave you with some words of wisdom from Will "I don't have to cuss in my raps to sell records" Smith...

"The Creative Habit" & answering "Why?"

You know that annoying little kid that endlessly asks the question "why?" in succession... partially for curiosity and partially just to test the limits of a parent to see when they will give up from boredom, frustration, or exhaustion? There were a few times growing up when I pulled that on my dad and somewhere that little kid still exists. (I think I had an epic run for "Why is the sky blue?" where he finally caved in after 15-20 rounds)

There are truisms in life that sound completely cliche, but can never be repeated enough. Be kind to others, read books, travel, eat well, etc... these are all common themes that show up again and again, but without a strong answer to "why?" the full import of their meaning never seems to take hold. It's just another factoid, devoid of any real meaning or application to my life. Sometimes though you get an excellent answer to why in the form of life experience or from reading a book. Here are some examples of books that resonated for me in this way:

-- Why is it important to be organized? Getting Things Done
-- Why are exercise and getting enough sleep good things to do? Brain Rules
-- What makes the scientific method so amazing? Demon Haunted World
-- Why do people who pursue their passions seem so attractive? The Way of the Superior Man
-- Why is watching too much TV bad for you? Amusing Ourselves to Death

Here's another question.... "Why are focus, hard work, and dedication to a craft important?" Everyone can answer this at a high level, but until I heard a convincing argument as to why these things are necessary, it never really sunk in. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp is the explanation I didn't even know I was looking for and it has completely inspired me.

If you have any kind of creative outlet, whether it be for work or as a hobby, I implore you to read this book. Aside from being inspirational, it's also practical with specific activities and examples to get you out of a rut and to focus in on what's most important to you. Even though her background is in dance and choreography, her words apply to any creative discipline you can think of.

I've been asking myself "what do I want to do next with my life?" a lot recently and this book has given me the clarity I was looking for. Thank you Twyla for sharing your gift and letting us look behind the curtain at your creative process. I will go back and watch Amadeus* now with fresh eyes and can't wait to watch a dance performance with all your perspectives and passions for dance in my head.

video caption: "This is an impromptu dance created and directed by Twyla Tharp. Joining her is a complete amateur Andy Plesser, a 55-year old with no formal dance background but considerable enthusiasm. This was part of a taping session of several interviews about dance, video, creativity and the Internet done for Beet.TV, a videoblog about the online video revolution and its implications for business and society. The interviews can be found here"
*Twyla did all the choreography. I haven't watched this since I was a little kid... curious to see how it will hold up against my memory and the vividness of Blu-Ray.
(and props to Merlin Mann for giving it such a hearty endorsement)

stream of consciousness on Dave Chappelle

-- I saw Chappelle perform last night and he was absolutely amazing... a verbal Mozart of our time.
-- The show started around 11:30 pm and was over by 3:30 am... and that's considered a short set for his late night shows in SF. He comes here often to try out new material and also it felt to just hang out with the audience
-- the venue was the Punchline in the Financial district, my first time there, a super intimate venue, about the size of two large living rooms. There was no line or anything to get in, each person had to show ID and sign their tickets upon collection at will call... thus eliminating scalper scum.
-- I tried getting another ticket to take someone with me, but by the time I went to purchase, it was too late and could only get one out of the system... it was fine though, was nice to just focus 100% on the show and get into it
-- There was no opener, he just walked right up on stage after entering through a side door and jumped into it with the audience
-- This was unlike any other stand up I've seen in that it's a totally collaborative affair... he said at the beginning, "Just got finished doing a show, but don't worry, you're the late show, so yours will be longer and I have other stuff to say... each show is like a snowflake :)"
-- There was a talkative Filipino woman in the audience and they had a good bit of banter to start things off as Dave's wife is also from the Philippines. She was very loud and had a lot to say, which led Dave to declare her "the most gangsta Asian woman I have ever met" (it also helped that she was wearing a Biggie t-shirt)
-- In general, the audience was incredibly diverse, I'm pretty sure every major ethnicity group had a representative in the audience. I love this kind of atmosphere.
-- I forgot to mention there was a DJ off to the side of the stage on the same level as the audience who was playing some 80s hip-hop classics before the show... turns out, it was Fuse, 2pac's old DJ.
-- Before the show, I predicted Dave would talk about Obama, gay marriage, terrorism, Somali Pirates, and of course, he touched on all of these. He'd also take any random topic from the audience and riff off that at will
-- During one bit, he talked about how extensively he's traveled the world and asked if anyone had a foreign background... I shouted out "Iran" and Dave and I had a funny back n' forth about the insanity of President Ahmadinejad. He asked me a few times to help him pronounce the name which was pretty fun and put me on the spot... I don't think he got any better at saying the name though.
-- When I shouted Iran, there was an attractive woman sitting behind me that said under her breath, "He's not even Persian" which was weird. I turned around to get a look at her after Dave moved on to another country, and sure enough, she was Persian and didn't believe that I was. After speaking a sentence of Farsi to her, she seemed to look shocked... her thuggish looking boyfriend is apparently some club owner that Dave frequents when he's in town and he seemed weary of me making too much of a connection with his Persian trophy. Now back to the show...
-- I won't go into all of the jokes since there was 4 hours worth, but one particular highlight toward the end was him just talking about music for an hour, while DJ Fuse would play him songs at random. It was really hard to tell how much of this part of the show was staged, but it sure did feel spontaneous. Fuse would play a mixture of hip-hop classics, with some weird songs mixed in ("Smells like Teen Spirit"... which he said was the first song that got black people to understand white music, the Benny Hill theme, Journey, Michael Jackson, etc...)
-- One thing is clear with Dave, he has a deep connection with music. Any time a hip-hop song came on like Rakim, old Jay Z, Big Daddy Kane, etc he would get this look of intense focus and would recite every rhyme word for word. It's clear that he views the 80/early-to-mid 90s period of hip-hop as the holy grail and thinks of the music as serious poetry. I don't think I've felt so compelled to go back and listen to hip-hop as much as I did seeing Dave's passion for it last night. Half the audience knew all the words too and there was lots of rapping and singing along going on.
-- Dave had lots of stories about hanging out with rappers and had a particularly great one about Kanye. He said that he liked Kanye a lot and didn't think his boastfulness was all that bad. He made lots of comparisons to himself and Rocky... basically saying that this kind of zeal and passion was a key to being a fierce competitor. He defanged Kanye quickly though by recounting the story of when he first appeared on Dave's show. He was so excited to be there hanging out behind the scenes that when he received a phone call from a friend, Kanye had to declare "My life is so dope right now! Bye!"... basically showing that Kanye couldn't believe what was happening around him at that time (apparently he was a bit nervous during the taping of the show too).
-- Someone in the audience asked Dave about his favorite TV show and he said old Heroes as far as modern TV, but got some boos and somehow ended up on the topic of VH1 shows. Dave got pretty serious during this part as VH1 has made a name for itself by employing D-list comics to essentially make fun of celebrities that actually have success and talent. This struck a chord with him and he made it clear that he hates this kind of tear-people down culture, especially when he sees his peers doing it.
-- Dave is super self aware... he picked up on the fact that he was getting angry and made the observation about how the world is going to shit, but he's up there being angry about VH1. His brain moves so fast, it's incredible to see him making transitions and connections between topics.
-- I've always loved the ability of comics to be one of the few people in the world that can actually tell things like they are, without sugar coating them. Dave said several crass things about women (and men's attitudes toward them), but had to check himself and apologize many times, especially now after being a father of 3 and including his first girl as of 2 weeks ago. He's obviously had his fair share of the ladies and strip club adventures and feels like he needs to atone for the past now that he has a daughter. He plays around with that boundary of having sexual desires and grappling with them being in a committed relationship. There was lots of flirting going on between him and women in the audience (and in particular, the hot owner of the club) and none of the women seemed to mind the attention. It's weird... if it was any "normal" guy doing or saying the things he was, it'd be totally off, but since it's Dave, it just seemed part of his world and reality.
-- While the show was certainly funny (my throat hurt I was laughing so much), there were definitely some weird, tense, and darker moments in the show. Dave has the air of someone who's been through a lot and thinks a lot about what's going on around the world. He doesn't strike me as religious and one gets the sense that he knows we're all going to die and with no afterlife and there's a sense of futility in it all. He has a "what does it all matter anyway" vibe throughout his comedy that I really enjoy. This came to the surface most when talking about the circumstances and fallout from walking away from Comedy Central's 50 million dollar deal to continue his show. He seems proud that he maintained his integrity, but says he also has a huge hole in his heart that only $40 million dollars or more can fill :) Of course this comes across as funny, but it's hard to tell how serious Dave is when talking about his decision to walk away. He acknowledges that his career isn't going that well at the moment (although, you'd never tell by the love that he has in the Bay Area... he just added some more shows for tonight and Oakland on Saturday... which he's reluctant to perform in... he's very danger averse).
-- He expounded more on this topic of the hole in his heart and this was my favorite part of the show. He says the real hole for him isn't the money, it's fame. He clearly misses being in the spotlight and feels resentment when watching TV and seeing people not even a fraction as funny as him getting attention (e.g. Carlos Mencia). Apparently he wrote Chappelle show with one other person while Carlos has a team of writers and still manages to suck ass. Back to the hole... he said while fame was his hole, for some it's reality tv, for some drugs, others women, video games, religion, etc. We all have this hole and find some way to fill it, but it's this void that makes us human. I couldn't help but relate this to my own life and it made for a bit of weird self-realization while sitting in a comedy club of all places, but this is why I love Dave... like other great comics, he doesn't need to just provide yucks all the time. One wonders how much of this is therapy for Dave... it's clear he thrives on connecting with the audience and I'm sure getting paid doesn't hurt either.
-- Other interesting things that came out... apparently he invited the prior night's show to play basketball with him and a few people took him up on it and apparently two of the guys were semi-pro and kicked his ass. He's also been doing stand up since he was 14! He has no "before I did comedy job stories" because he's had no other jobs... comedy has been his entire life. "8th grade" was his job before comedy. At age 35, he seems way more mature for his age and this definitely gave me a kick in the ass to get going on my own personal goals seeing that we're only 4 years apart.
-- The end of the show just sort of faded out... the audience ran out of topics and questions, Dave was slowing down with the stories, so he just declared us a good night and that was it. I felt like the whole room wanted to give him a hug... he held our attention solely with spoken words for 4 hours, something I don't think I've ever experienced before in my life... (and thank god for the no cell phone policy).

If you ever get the chance to see Dave, I don't have to tell you twice... definitely go and see a master at work!

update: I stand corrected, Dave's a Muslim. I must've been reading my own stuff in there somehow.
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    Big Daddy Kane - Ain't No Half Steppin'
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T6 is out da do'

Yippie! We released the latest version of IE Toolbar yesterday which has been a pretty big undertaking and something I've worked on since I started at G00g. There are lots of small tweaks and invisible things in this release like improvements to the search box and launching in 40 languages, but there are two new big features that are worth mentioning. The first is the new tab page which you might've noticed if you tried Chrome, but this one has the added benefit of letting you you remove thumbnails for sites that you'd rather not see all the time (which was a big piece of feedback we got from Chrome users).

The 2nd and more exciting feature is a brand new search utility called the "QSB" (aka Quick Search Box) which lets you quickly execute a search at any time (whether you're in your browser or not) and it also provides access to the applications on your machine without having to mess with the Start menu or scouring through icons on your desktop. You can bring up the box either by clicking on the Google logo on your task bar or by pressing Cntrl+ spacebar.

If you use a mac, you can grab this as a standalone app from here.

For the small handful of you reading this who are still using IE :) give this new toolbar a try and send me your feedback!


Firefox users can get the new tab page feature via this version, but there won't be a QSB to play with sadly.

Lastly, G00g is now officially on Twitter if you're into that sort of thing.

what's good

-- I've been rock climbing pretty consistently since I came back from Asia and it's been interesting to see the challenge move from "OMFG, my forearms are destroyed" to "OMFG, I have no idea where to put my hands." I know I'm a walking stereotype by indulging in this particular hobby, but I can totally see why nerds enjoy it. The problem solving aspect is definitely appealing and the whole leveling system is perfect for a generation of people who grew up trying to level-up in RPGs and took great pleasure in finding the warp shortcuts in Super Mario.

-- The new Eno produced U2 album leaked apparently... I haven't checked it out yet, but the first track sounds promising. Nothing will beat Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and The Passengers as far as I'm concerned.

-- Been eating out way too much which is easy to do since the bay area is completely obsessed with food. It's a weird thing and I'm trying to catch myself from becoming just like all the other foodie zombies. Sure, eating great food is nice, but unlike music or other forms of art, you can't share it with others for free, so fixating on it too much is a rather masterbatory exercise. Just because one likes good food does not in and of itself make them interesting... unless they can bring an interesting angle to it like Anthony Bourdain or my friend Mariam.

-- I know very little about the producer, The Alchemist, but this XLR8R interview with him is great. I especially like what he says during the credits (paraphrasing)... if you're an artist and you see something that doesn't yet exist in the world, you're selfish if you don't do something to make it real so that others can enjoy it too.

-- Some friends and I are planning to sign up for a motorcycle class in March. I'm not running out the door to buy a motorcycle or anything, but I have a sizable number of friends lately that ride and it would be cool to have the skill at least to try it out.

-- The Until the End of the World soundtrack has held up well over time. I don't know much of Lou Reed's backcatalog, but I've always dug this song off the soundtrack...