People are often surprised to find out I am, or was (depending on when you catch me), a smoker. I've never been a pack-a-day kinda guy - more like a pack-a-week - but still enough for me to feel it in my lungs when I'm smoking, and feel it in my gut when I'm not.
Right now, I'm not. It's been a few days, so the hard part should be over. But it's the routine stuff that's hard to change. I miss the excuse for a walk. The multi-tasking when walking the dogs. The reward for a task well done. The selfish pleasure of taking a few minutes out of every day to do something just for me.
The strangest part is, for the last few days, I've had this constant nagging feeling that I've forgotten something. I'm sitting on the couch wondering, what was it? I took out the trash, moved the car, paid the bills. What did I forget?
It's every nicotine-addled cell in my body crying out for a fix. It's my dopamine-starved brain, pinching me in the back of the neck, yelling, "Hey stupid! Go do that thing! You know the one."
I'm not willing to say I'll never smoke again. But, for now, I've had enough. And I've quit enough times to know that this feeling will pass. New routines will develop. And, for a while, I might be able to live up to everyone's expectations of me.
I talk to my grandma most weekends. She's an amazing woman. She lived through the horrors of the Holocaust, and yet, every time I call her and ask how she's doing, her answer is, "I can't complain."
She probably said the same thing when she was homeless in Siberia. In winter.
I think, for her, to complain is to invite disaster. The same goes for happy, too. Never brag, or consider yourself lucky, because then it'll go away. It's superstitious, sure, but grandma Powazek has been right more than she's been wrong. I trust her.
That's why, when I think about how great things are going right now, with the company and the magazine and the wife and basically everything, it fills me with equal parts excitement and dread. Maybe it's the grandma in me, but I just don't want to think about how lucky I am right now, for fear it will all go poof.
So, me? I can't complain.
Heather and I are in Chicago for a family visit. We're all gathered at a nice restaurant for dinner - Heather's sister Claire, Claire's husband Owen, and their two boys: Eamon, 6, and Hugh, 2. Dinner is lovely, and the paper tablecloth is gradually covered in spent tic-tac-toe grids, doodles, and food scraps.
I've noticed, in the short time I've spent with parents, that they basically do not eat when their kids do. They eat in the spare moments in between questions and/or tantrums, and then chow down on fast forward just before the staff comes to clear the dishes.
There's an old story. I don't know if it's true, but it goes like this. Penguins mate for life. And there's a moment when some boy penguin is looking over that infinite expanse of black and white when one female penguin stands out. And he stands out to her. And then, well, that's it. Of all the penguins, these two are now together for life.
A couple months ago, Heather and I went camping with some friends. One morning, we emerged from our tent, bleary eyed. There were a number of dogs camping with us, too, and one of them came trotting over to me, happy as can be.
And I did what I always do. I reached out with both hands and gave him a nice hello rub. Slowly, in my early morning haze, it occurred to me. Something smelled bad. Really bad. I looked down at the happy dog and something in his eyes said to me, "Yeah, I met a skunk. Kicked his ass."
I brought my hands to my face and gave them a good sniff. The smell was intense. Skunk smell is bad from afar. But up close, it's like pure essence of death.
And my first thought, of course, was: I've gotta share this with Heather!
"Hey, baby." I said, walking to her, arms outstretched. "Smell this!"
And as she was bent over, hands on her knees, gagging and on the verge of vomiting, I knew I'd found my penguin.
When I was 16, I became a vegetarian. Years later, I spent the summer in Alaska. When my friends and I went fishing, I decided that if I could catch one, I'd totally eat it. So that's what I did. I figured, once you take a fish's life with your own two hands, you're allowed to eat it.
Last night I fired a gun for the first time. My friend Ford grew up around guns in Nevada, so they were always a normal thing. Me, growing up outside Los Angeles with semi-hippy parents, I wasn't even allowed a cap gun.
I took my favorite Lomo shots and put them together in a book I'm calling Apple Sweat: The 2006 Heat Wave from NYC Streets. Take a look!
The other day I found myself needing to contact a friend. This friend and I, we're both bleeding edge technology nerds, so it got me thinking about how many ways there are for people like us to contact each other, and what the unspoken rules of etiquette are for each one.
Here were the options, in order of most immediate to least.
These days, I answer the phone with, "Is everything okay?" The phone is so pressing, so overt, so immediate, the only socially appropriate reason to use it is if you're trapped in a fiery building or someone's in the hospital. The phone insists itself upon the user, annoying everyone within earshot, and has to be answered immediately to make the noise stop. A hateful experience for everyone involved.
A small collection of thoughts after attending two conferences in two weeks.
Yesterday Heather and I were walking the pups through Golden Gate Park when we came upon Stow Lake. Heather noticed that, if you rent a proper rowboat (instead of the little paddle boats), dogs are allowed. Why not? Before I knew it, we were in the mucus-colored lake, Heather rowing Bug, Chieka, and I around. Yes, I can let a woman row me around a lake. I'm progressive like that.
Chieka, knowing full well what was happening, sat in my lap and vibrated like a scared thing. Bug, however, being the brave (and perhaps none too bright) soul that he is, immediately started patrolling the boat. We were barely five minutes into our journey when he walked right up to the side of the boat and put his paws up on the edge.
In Merlin's latest 43 Folders podcast, The Perfect Apostrophe, he tells the story of the book he almost wrote. You should go listen to it - Merlin's a stitch, as always.
For the uninitiated, 43 Folders is a "Getting Things Done" blog about how to be more organized in business and life. When he and a colleague were invited to write a book about personal productivity, it was like a dream come true for Merlin. I'll let him tell you the story about what happened next, but suffice to say, the book never happened. The productivity expert procrastinated himself out of his own book.
"The fact is, I don't do this stuff because I'm good at it," says Merlin of his obsession with productivity. "I do this stuff because I'm really, really shitty at it."
Today I am 33 years old. 33 years of troublemaking behind me. Hopefully 33 more to go.
Today I find myself smack dab in the middle of the most amazing moment in my career ever (if I can even apply the word "career" to the list of antics and misadventures that make up my resume). I find myself with a lot to say, lots of places to say it, and lots of people willing to listen. I find myself surrounded my supportive friends, eccentric acquaintances, and a wife so beautiful, loving, and sensitive, most days I can hardly believe my luck.
And I find myself here, online, with you, eleven years after I found this brave new world. That's a third of my life I've spent online. And I don't regret a single one.
Thanks for coming on this ride with me.
Two months ago, I posted about leaving Technorati and starting a design studio. I also lamented how hard it was to find a good domain name, and lots of you wrote in with fabulous suggestions and offers. I tried to reply to everyone, but please forgive me if I didn't get back to you. They were all great.
Here's the thing. Less than two months after starting the design company, things have shifted. I'm still starting a company with my good friend Paul, but it's transmogrified into something else. (Guess it's a good thing we never did settle on a name.)
The new company is going to be ... pure awesomeness. After years of putting designs to other people's visions, I'm finally going to be able to do it for myself. I've come up with lots of ideas over the years, but this is the first one that's got all the elements in line: the right time, with the right people, and the right technology. Plus there's an actual business plan.
It Has Recently Come to My Attention that I am an Idiot
Just a thought from 14 March 2006 about Geek, Life.
We interrupt this conference-related revelry with an important announcement. It seems that in the haze of my cold medication, I made some adjustments to my email server's settings which resulted in the last few days of mail getting unceremoniously rejected.
So, if you sent me mail in the last week, please resend. I realize this request subtracts a few points from my geek cred, but I'll just have to live with that.
I'm firstname at lastname dot com, as always.
So I'm starting a design studio. Something small, specializing in participatory interactive projects - sites that do something. It'll just be me and a partner, at first. We've even got a small office space already, and an ever-growing list of clients. There's just one thing we do not have. A name.
I have spent the last month trolling whois every night. A good web company needs a good domain name, and lemme tell you, they're all taken. I mean, all of them. Even the sarcastic ones, the ones you look up even though you hate them. Makes a guy wanna make up a new word like "blog" or something.
So I'm wondering, dear reader, are you the kind of person who's sitting on a cool dotcom that you might be willing to part with? If so, drop me a line. I'm serious. You'll save me from the dysfunctional relationship I'm developing with the Whois Lookup.
More details on the company, whatever it's called, soon. For now, I'm doing what every serious dotcom businessman does to start off his business. I'm speaking at a conference. Hope to see you there.
As a designer, I like big challenges. Sure, you can pay the bills endlessly tweaking a pixel here and there, but it's much more fun to be on the bleeding edge. In my career thus far, I've been lucky to have had a hand in some pretty major web happenings: HotWired, Electric Minds, Blogger. Some failed, some succeeded, but they all had one thing in common: They were doing brave things, well ahead of their time.
Technorati, where I've been the Senior Designer for the last 15 months, has been another fantastic challenge. The first seven months of my employment were spent reimagining the entire product - branding, logos, features, and functionality. Since the redesign launched, in addition to evolving the design, I helped conceive of and create new features: Tags, Blog Finder, Explore, and now Favorites.
I'm 32 years old. That means I missed reel-to-reel. I never owned an 8-track. But I remember vinyl. In this modern world of MP3s and iPods, there's something romantic about records.
It's the ritual that I miss. I remember flipping through my dad's albums until the immense cover art of one drew me in. I remember unsheathing the thing like a precious gem, touching only the edges. I'd place it on the Technics, press a button, and it would begin turning. I'd gently run the dust brush over it. It was deep red and soft like velvet. Then I'd move the needle, every so slowly, into place. If you did it right, it made no sound at all - you just heard the music start. If you did it wrong, a loud bonk would come out of the speakers, and a stern look would come from my dad.
I was only 10 and I knew these things were older than me. They deserved respect. Reverence.
I have to say, hearing my wife come into the living room and say, "Oh my God, it's so big," gives me a certain manly geek pride I've never quite felt before.
She also told me it was well hung.
Vive la Paris!
Last year I made some resolutions here on the ol' dotcom. Let's recap:
1. Sell the car. Check!
2. Launch JPG. Check!
3. Quit smoking. Check! Then ... uncheck. Sigh.
4. Kick ass at work. IMHO, Check!
5. Remember to treasure every moment. Doing my best.
6. Be more patient with those who mean well but communicate poorly. Doing my best.
7. Take Fray to the next level, whatever that is. Does putting it on hiatus count? If so, check.
8. Self-publish a book. Check!
I guess I'll keep those "doing my best" ones on the list for this year, as well as that pesky unchecked one. And here area few new ones for 2006:
9. Get more serious with JPG Magazine.
10. Say yes more than no. Much more.
11. Keep feathering the nest.
12. [This one's in my inside voice. I know what it is. You'll see.]
I do not hate Christmas. I do not hate hearing Christmas songs in every store I go into. I do not hate the expectation that most people have around this time of year that everyone around them should be filled with "Christmas Cheer." I do not hate the presents - buying them, wrapping them, standing in long lines to mail them to every cousin I can manage to remember.
I do not hate that every show I watch has to have a Very Special Christmas Episode. I do not hate that every newspaper and magazine I pick up has something about Christmas - how I should celebrate it, how I should believe in it, how I should care about how other people celebrate and believe in it.
I do not hate the candy canes and Christmas trees that adorn every storefront in town. I do not hate the candy cane stripes on the parking meters, the city-owned and operated meters, that appeared just after Thanksgiving. I do not hate the slowly dying pine trees that sprang up overnight where empty lots used to be. I do not hate the expectation everyone has that I'm going to buy one.
I can grow a beard. I just choose not to.
I recently spent $200 on a shirt that has a collar and can only be cleaned by the nice man at the dry cleaners.
The crazy guys in the park who pester me for loose change, tag my building with crap, rifle through my garbage, and scream at the muni line? Totally lost their charm.
When I do my laundry, I separate my clothes into two piles: good stuff and bad stuff. The good stuff goes on the delicate setting and gets hung on hangers. Lately, for the first time in my life, the good pile outweighs the bad pile.
Today is Heather's birthday. Send her some lovin.
2. Cooking eggs for my wife on a Sunday morning makes me happy enough to hum. Actual humming!
3. Stats from my recent adventure in dentistry. Number of temporary crowns I've gone through in four days: Two. Number of days until the permanent one is ready: Nine. Taste of the glue used to hold the temporary crown in place: Cloves.
4. Photographers are most interesting when they're not talking about photography. The same can be said of dentists and dentistry, but not of cab drivers and cab driving.
As Illustrated by Three Short Stories of Conversations with Professionals
Someone once told me that one of the signs of true intelligence is when you're able to change your mind about things. To learn from experience and grow as a person. If that's true, I think I'm becoming a fucking genius. It's only taken me 31 years to learn my mom was right about (mostly) everything.
... listening to the heartbreakingly beautiful music of a dead man's new album before it's released thanks to a certain file sharing site that cannot be named. (I still miss you, Elliot.)
... driving too fast on curving Bay Area highway roads on the rare occasion that they're empty and the car is actually working.
... kissing your wife as she's sleeping before you take the dogs out for the last walk in the fog; making her stir, but not wake.
A few months ago I installed a car stereo in my old Honda Civic. It plays MP3s. MP3s weren't even invented when that car was made.
I felt a sense of manly accomplishment that was, frankly, intoxicating. I, Derek Powazek, had actually removed a car stereo and installed a new one, my ass hanging out of the passenger side door, grunting and crimping all those wires in all the right places, without any bleeding or setting anything on fire or anything.
When I was done I brought Heather out and we sat in the car listening to the thing boom. The people in the hair salon watched us, leaning into their window, wondering why we were sitting in a parked car, and one of us was pumping his fist in the air.
I guess that's what made me think I had the chops to replace the hard drive in my laptop.
We're home. We're alive. We loved the trip but are so happy to see our fog-covered city again. I want to kiss every fat American ass, giant SUV, and extra-large helping of everything I can buy with ugly green money in a language I can speak freely without shame or embarrassment.
Just a quick note to say that, thanks to the free, albeit brief, wifi at the Hugo Cafe, my semifunctional laptop, a t610 cameraphone, and the patience of my lovely wife, Heather is now able to post her phone pics to her site. Yay!
Greetings, friends and family, from Paris!
Amsteram was a blur, as it tends to be. For a place where pot and mushrooms are legal, the staircases are dangerously steep. It's as if they're trying to off the tourists. The four sets of stairs that led to our top floor room seemed to get steeper over time. The room was beautiful, and it came with a mosquito that politely avoided my lovely bride and concentrated on me. It's a sacrifice I'm happy to make. I'm a husband now.
The train ride from there to Paris was even lovlier than I remembered. And now we're here in Paris, in the land of pretty people in tight clothes, where the buildings are old, the mannequins have nipples, and the keyboards are frustrating. I never knew how good a touch-typist I was until all the keys changed places. These people have to hit three keys just to make an "@"! It's amazing anyone sends email at all. Do you think it says something about the French that it taks two keys to make a period, but only one to make an exclamation point?
Anyway. We're here and having a great time. Except for when we try to type. If you wanna follow along, Heather is posting phonecam pics on Flickr.
It's just about two weeks until Heather and I are married. What better way to celebrate than to give away one of my Gmail invites via Gmail Swap to young Jamie Kinder in exchange for "a 4 line rap" about my bride to be. Here's the result, worth every cent:
you look at derek, and put him with heather / you can tell that they derserve to be together / for the rest of their life / man and wife / holdin hands, lovin each other two four seven / hopefully still lovin each other in heaven
I'm thinking of making it part of the ceremony.
Overheard on Carl Street: Family sitting at a sidewalk table at an Italian restaurant, father to young son: "See, that's why you get spanked. You just. don't. listen."
I was on the kid's side until he screamed through the rest of his dinner.
Overheard on Ocean Beach: The nice guy with the two tiny Westies walking with his girlfriend: "She picked the breed, I picked the names."
"And what are their names?"
"That one's Killer, that one's Spaz."
This section is called Just a Thought. It's a blog where I post little pieces of what I'm thinking about at the moment. This page shows thoughts about Life, including:
Quitting Smoking. Again.
10 December 2006
I can't complain.
11 October 2006
Come with me to Denmark
19 September 2006
The Kid Always Gets the Last Word
3 September 2006
Love and Penguins
25 August 2006
22 August 2006
New Photo Book: Apple Sweat
8 August 2006
The Etiquette of Modern Communication
29 July 2006
Two Conferences, Two Weeks
25 July 2006
My Dog is So Smart
18 June 2006
Do What You Suck At
16 June 2006
16 May 2006
What I'm Up To Now
26 April 2006
It Has Recently Come to My Attention that I am an Idiot
14 March 2006
What I'm Up To
4 March 2006
Technorati, Favorites, and Moving Forward
22 February 2006
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
4 February 2006
"It's So Big!"
12 January 2006
10 Notes for the Paris hotel/casino in Las Vegas
9 January 2006
My Resolutions for 2006
28 December 2005
A Very Special Christmas Post
18 December 2005
10 Recent Signs that I'm Becoming a Grownup
21 November 2005
Happy Birthday, Baby!
29 April 2005
Notes from a Weekend
23 August 2004
Things Mom Was Right About
19 August 2004
Happiness is ...
10 August 2004
3 August 2004
30 July 2004
26 July 2004
France in my pants
24 July 2004
I am so married
20 July 2004
48 Hours to Go
16 July 2004
D to the H
2 July 2004
25 April 2004
Things I Like
19 December 2003
Join the POWlist
Enter your email address here so I can send an occasional note to your inbox. Only good things, I promise. More info »
Working the web since 1995, Derek Powazek is the creator of many award-winning websites, a couple of which still exist. Derek is the cofounder of JPG Magazine and the CCO of 8020 Publishing. Derek lives in San Francisco with his wife, two nutty Chihuahuas, a grumpy cat, and a house full of plants named Fred. More »
Join the POWlist to receive the occasional note.
Quitting Smoking. Again. 10 December 2006
I can't complain. 11 October 2006
Come with me to Denmark 19 September 2006
The Kid Always Gets the Last Word 3 September 2006
Love and Penguins 25 August 2006