Here Is What to Read: the Best of the Web

Welcome back to my “Best of the Web” ( previously known as “7 Things to Read This Weekend”) email newsletter. After a long hiatus, we are starting its second season. In its previous incarnation my recommendations were about stepping away from technology and the minutiae of the industry. The new version has no such limitations. I will curate stories, essays, opinions and interviews that I find enlightening and thought-provoking. They help understand the big changes going on in our society. Without much further ado, here is the first set of reading recommendations.

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Happy Handwriting Day


“I’ve always had this identity thing. When I was little, I was always changing my handwriting because I couldn’t decide which one I liked best.” Lianne La Havas


instagramprofileLast night I hit a unique milestone — I shared my 2000th photo on Instagram! I have been on Instagram since the day it launched and it has changed my life in many ways. I have 19,312 followers and I follow 466 people. My favorite accounts to follow feature photos of snow, sunsets, sunrises, shoes and more shoes. Here is a little snippet from one of my early blog posts about the company:

For now, the service has the tinge of an early-adopter hit, as reflected by the popularity amongst SF-based bloggers, news media and a demographic generically known as hipster. But there’s potential for this app to become something larger — perhaps a visually driven social network.

In many ways, it is only getting started. Visual communication is a brand new skill I have learned (and am still learning) because of Instagram. I have made a lot of new friends. I have embarked on a journey of discovery, thanks to what I saw on Instagram. It has been a great few years of self improvement as an iPhone-photographer! I have become a believer in the visual web. It has prompted me to search for what comes next — and led me to Storehouse, which turned one recently.

While Instagram founder Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger deserve their earthly riches, they also deserve bigger kudos for enriching our lives. Thanks guys.

And yes, please come and check out my photos!

Going OffScreen

One of the biggest surprises in life is hearing from someone you have admired. In my case it was an email from Offscreen magazine. I have been a big fan of Offscreen magazine for a long time. None of its articles are available online. It is beautifully designed and it explores the human side of technology. And it is truly a one-man operation. It is the labor of love for editor and founder, Kai Brach. A former digital designer, he writes, edits and publishes the entire magazine all by himself. You can’t tell it from the way the magazine looks, the fantastic articles and interviews he brings together. It is meant to be enjoyed, as the name suggests, off screen!

offscreenmagA few months ago, Kai emailed and wanted to interview me for Offscreen Issue No.10. I was hesitant, mostly because in my head magazines are a medium where what I write is published. Nevertheless, my admiration for Offscreen helped me overcome my hesitation. Kai and I went through a rigorous interview process, though we never once spoke with each other. Our interview, was conducted via Google docs, where answers led to more questions. It was a fantastic interview process — I was irritated and amused and angry and happy and wistful, while writing the responses to somewhat pointed probing. I believe, an in-person interview perhaps would have been less effective. My dear friend Helena Price took the photos to accompany the article — and she always makes me look better than I look.

Well, Issue No.10 of Offscreen is finally out. The magazine is packed with stories about people who are friends or those who I admire. Scott Belsky, founder of Behance and Amit “SuperAmit” Gupta are friends. Andrew Kim of Microsoft is someone whose blog is very influential on some topics important to me. There are others who I don’t know well, but they are friends of friends and I can’t wait to read more about them. I look forward to Slack’s Stewart Butterfield’s Rules of Business. Alex Klein talks about Kano and computers. Kai, thanks for including me in the issue.

Candidly, it has been a while since I was excited watiing for a magazine. I have most of the past issues and I have never felt let down by the money spent on them. I am looking forward to reading Offscreen — hopefully you can order a copy or two.

The Cleanup

The new year is almost two weeks old, and frankly I am not doing too well with my to-do list. I have lost my ability to sleep (again) and despite my best efforts, I have been clocking about 3.5 miles a day of walking. I need to get a move on — literally and figuratively. I have been eating healthier — sticking mostly to vegetarian food and occasional fish or chicken, but again, all of that amounts to nothing, if I slip from my target of walking five miles a day.

However, there is one item on my to-do list that I am running ahead of schedule. My plan was to eliminate about a third of the things I own and this weekend I took a huge step towards striking this off my list. It isn’t quite spring — thought it feels like Spring in San Francisco — but this was spring cleaning, for sure. I spent my Saturday at the storage facility and basically emptying out the entire unit, with the exception of a box of my old classic mobile phones and important papers, which now sit in another storage in our building’s basement – next to my boxes of books.

I recently became familiar with MoveLoot, one of the newer online consignment services that helps you sell your furniture in a second hand marketplace it runs. Bill Bobbitt, who is the founder and CEO of the company, in a recent chat over coffee, explained to me how it works and I am going to try it out. Over next couple of weeks, MoveLoot is going to come and take away most of my furniture. I will keep a handful of things, but I want to make a lot of room in my apartment, which feels stuffy, well because it has so much stuff. I hope to add more lighting, a handful of pieces over next year or so — a small work/dining table for four and hopefully if I can find a good deal, an Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. I am going to try out CustomMade to see if I can find someone to make me a nice bookshelf, mostly because I have a lot of books.

Books are probably the hardest thing for me to give away — I know I can always get them on Kindle and keep them stored on my computer. I have moved so often and every move resulted in giving away books, either to friends or to the Salvation Army and every single time I felt miserable. It was like giving away a part of myself. If I had kept all of them, I would have a few thousand books — now I have about six boxes in the basement and another 200 odd spread across my apartment, in various stages of being read, unread or forgotten.

Sometimes I read a book on Kindle, and buy a paper version, mostly because I want to read it again. Books don’t get less useful with age — though some do. Books are a reflection of you intellectual growth. There is something about the books — they become more personal and more intimate, after you read them, hopefully more than once. I know, I am being illogical, but I can’t really get rid of books, no matter how good Kindle gets. (Which reminds me — I need to charge my PaperWhite!)

Books aside, the weekend clean-up was bitter sweet. One’s storage container is a good metaphor of the collective detritus of one’s past. While sifting through things, I saw some of my old clothes that reminded me of how much weight I had lost, gained back, lost again. I have always liked clothes — and have always had my own unique way of looking at things. I had a Nat Nast/Bowling Shirt phase. I had a funky shirt phase. I had a chino phase. I had a Ted Baker moment. Paul Smith, Robert Graham, Robert Talbot — all have made an appearance in my wardrobe. There were several other brands — even Kenneth Cole and Tommy Hilfiger.

The piles of clothes were a good way to visualize the simplification of my tastes, and my increased focus on quality and uniqueness. I sometimes confused cost with quality, brand with coolness. As I piled these clothes into boxes heading to Goodwill, I thought to myself: we have it all wrong. Trying new things, learning new tricks is the essence of youthful outlook. Growing up knowing what you want, instead it is about knowing what you don’t want. And there wasn’t a single thing I wanted to keep.

PS: I found this article about how to clean-up and it is worth a read:

At the beginning of a new season, turn all the hangers so they face right. After you wear an item once, turn its hanger around to face left. Once the season’s over, keep only the clothes on the hangers pointing left.

This is one tip, I am going to try right away as it makes perfect sense. Now that I have reduced the number of clothes in my closet to 150 items, this seems like a good test for me to filter them down even further. I need to go down to 100 items, and hopefully I can reach that point sometime in 2015.

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