I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in about three minutes. In December I couldn’t at all and now, after a bit of time invested, I can take any scrambled 3x3 cube and solve it.

Three minutes isn’t actually that impressive to most (as they call themselves) speedcubers where completion times are in the 6 to 20 second range. Larger, more complex cubes might be in the 40 second range, but over a minute for any cube is terribly long.

There are two ways to solve a Rubik’s Cube: intuitively, where you understand how a move will get a piece into position using your brain to think about how that move affects other pieces, and algorithmically, where you memorize a set of different moves to solve the hundreds of tiny cases you encounter.

If intuitive solving is getting in a car and driving to the store, algorithmic solving is punching an address into a computer and having your car take you there. While it is easier to memorize a random address in a city, there can be quite a lot of them.

I started solving the cube over Christmas break. My son received an official Rubik’s® Cube for Christmas and the second I saw it something clicked in my brain and I had to learn how to solve it. As a kid I spent hours struggling but never got past a couple of faces. Now with Youtube it’s pretty simple to get a couple of free tutorials and start solving with in a day.

Around that time I stopped using Twitter (I know!) and handed over my idle time to solving the cube. I bought a real speed cube, the Moyu Weilong, and it’s helped my speed considerably, but I’m still not quite there yet. The cube is really nice, though.

Once you learn the algorithms a solve becomes more of a pattern recognition game. The algorithms even start to make intuitive sense and recalling one becomes easier because you know what piece needs to be twisted or swapped.

It’s fun, it feels good to get the pieces in place, and every time I sit down with it there’s a new challenge to figure out, whether it’s recalling an little used algorithm or getting a good spin on a particular layer.

A nice thing that happened last week was that I passed Duolingo’s 50% French Fluency level. I can’t say I’m remotely fluent in French but suddenly every French phrase and loan-word we use in English jumps out at me from around corners.

Sous vide…huh! Mardi gras…ahh! Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? Ah! That song is considerably less exotic now.

I know a fair amount of Spanish just having it around as a kid and taking courses in school, but I’ve never really dove into learning another language like this before. I still have a long way to go and would appreciate any advice you have on learning the language.

The term bonking is used among cyclists and in any type of endurance sport where your muscles have depleted their store of glycogen, the stored energy in your muscles to help them perform. It’s when you hit a wall and you feel everything from weakness to headaches to nausea to a rapid heartbeat and more. It’s not great. The technical term is hypoglycemia but people call it bonking because it’s obviously a bit more fun to say.

I sort of knew what the term meant and have some experience with low blood sugar to know I don’t like it, but I’d never experienced it while exercising until a couple of months ago.

I didn’t eat well that day and I had to get to Pac Heights for a parent-teacher meeting after work. I’d never ridden in that direction so I consulted my bike-friendly map routes and left work with an extra half-hour to spare in case I got lost.

As a new cyclist I’m always looking for new challenges in the city. I’ve climbed some okay hills but going from SOMA to Pac Heights meant I’d have to go up McAllister to Steiner which wasn’t a route I’d ever taken. I didn’t really know how much of a climb that would be.

And then, after leaving the meeting, I’d be going to the Outer Richmond, which would mean another hill to go up and over Clay St.

I usually ride about 10 miles a day so this was adding a few more miles plus a few more hills.

While starting up McAllister someone also traveling in that direction noticed my bike (it’s kind of rare to have one right now in SF) and so we got to talking about bikes and bike shops in the city. I like talking about bikes so this was a nice way to pass the time as we climbed.

Before I knew it we were passing Divisadero which is a couple blocks past where I needed to be. I said bye and turned around to Steiner, which took me up into Pac Heights.

After the meeting I was feeling a little tired, but not more than usual after a long day. I got on my bike and headed home.

About halfway there I started feeling sluggish. My brain ached and I felt a little nauseated. At first I thought I was just thirsty but as it continued I immediately recognized it for what it was. I was hypoglycemic and still had about 20 blocks to go.

At that point I got off my bike and started walking it along the sidewalk. After a few minutes I was able to get back on, but riding much slower than before. It’s actually kind of dangerous to ride when you’re hypoglycemic because your judgement is a little off and you might not be paying attention to cars and doors being opened.

When I got home I didn’t have the energy to put my stuff away. I leaned my bike against a wall (usually I lock it up in the back), dropped my stuff by the door, and headed for the kitchen.

I was in a bad state. I just felt bad. Everything felt bad. I felt like throwing up. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, but I was glad I was home where I could get some water and sugar.

From the very small bits of info I knew about hypoglycemia, most people cure it by carrying food, candies, or little shots of what I’m guessing are sugared, Gatorade-like drinks in their bags and consume them when they feel it coming on. I think I’d even seen a story where someone won a cycling race and at the finish line ignored the well-wishers while he stuffed handfuls of gummy bears into his mouth.

It was this memory I had in my head and I walked over to the pantry. I knew we had a bag of candies left over from Halloween that my son thinks we don’t know he raids every weekend before we wake up. I had moved it recently so I knew there was something in there. I vaguely remembered seeing some jelly beans.

I reached up and took the bag off the shelf and just as I had remembered there were jelly beans, more specifically, little Jelly Bellys in a plastic bag.

I was saved!

I did not wait. I scooped up a handful and put them in my mouth. I put my hand back in the bag and scooped more to be ready when there was room in my mouth again. I was saved.

As I chewed I started to notice all the flavors. What were all these flavors I was noticing? There was a lot there, for sure. Sweet of course, but also sour, and savory. And something…grass?

“Oh crap,” I thought. As my brain and body started to come back from the wall as the sugar made its way into my blood, I thought, “Oh crap. Oh crap.”

“Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans” are indeed made by the Jelly Belly company, but they were originally a fictional candy from the world of Harry Potter. In the first book, as Harry is introduced to the world of magic, he discovers there are mirror-world foods like Jelly Bellys that have prank flavors such as: “Sardine, Black Pepper, Grass, Horseradish, Vomit, Booger, Earwax, Dirt, Earthworm, Spaghetti, Spinach, Soap, Sausage, Pickle, Bacon, and Rotten Egg.”

These were all in my mouth. These are the candies my son did not eat, which is why they were still in the bag untouched.

My bonking salvation was in my mouth and I was not sure if I should continue to swallow or spit them out.

(You did see “vomit” was in that list, yes?)

I did keep chewing and I did keep swallowing. And I felt better after a few minutes.

I relaxed with a quick shower and then sat on the couch, opened Amazon.com, and ordered a half-pound bag of Haribo gummy bears.

“Have you noticed they stopped making green cars?” My wife says as we sit in traffic, surrounded by silver and black cars. “I read something about how it’s not a popular color anymore.”

“Huh,” I say. The four of us are about one mile into a 15 mile trip and the traffic is pretty bad. We were headed to meet a foster puppy in a city south of us, then swinging by the SF SPCA to see what they had. Looking for puppies turns out to be a pretty fun way to spend your Saturday.

I stash the green car conversation in the back of my mind as we drive. I think I see about three green cars the entire way there. They really do seem pretty rare! I make a note to find that article she read because I remember being a kid and everyone seemed to have a garishly blue or green car; there were even quite a few browns. Now it’s all white, silver, black, and an occasional red. I wonder to myself what changed.

A few hours later we’re headed back from the SF SPCA dog-less. There were lots of cute pups and adult dogs but not one we wanted. We’re about 20 minutes from home and we’re all a little tired out from seeing so many dogs. I’ve put in about an hour of driving and I really hate driving. Plus the kids are BORED.

“I’m borrrrred,” my son wails from the backseat.

“I’m borrrrred,” my daughter wails. She’s going through a phase where she copies everything her big brother says in the voice he says it in. This bothers him even more.

I’m tempted to give my son my phone but we’ve stopped doing that on drives. I think to myself, “He needs to figure out a way to keep himself entertained.” As a kid I was pretty good at that. I could dream up games for my sister and I while my dad drove hundreds of miles on family vacations. Even when I was alone I’d challenge myself to figure out something interesting around me. I always managed to entertain myself for a bit.

And then I thought maybe I should help…

“Hey Mark,” I say, “How about this: I give you one dollar for every green car you can spot.”

Three bucks is a great deal to keep the kid entertained for almost a half hour. Heck, if he sees $5 worth of cars that’d mean he doubled his weekly allowance and that’d be cool for him. We’ve been giving him chores and work around the house and so far he has the ability to earn $5 a week.

“OKAY!” He says, excited at the possibilities. He wasn’t paying attention to the conversation earlier so he sounds like he expects to make hundreds of dollars before we get home. We’re surrounded by hundreds of cars, surely quite a few will be green.

Ten minutes later I realize I’ve made a huge mistake.

There are so many green cars around that he’s missing them. Amber is laughing each time he yells out that he sees another one.

“TEN! That’s ten! ELEVEN—”

“No, that’s the same car from before!” I plead.

“Okay…ELEVEN!” he points to a forest green Subaru. I forgot about Subarus. They make a lot of goddamn forest green Subarus.

Every stop light has me scanning cars and trying to will the light to change faster. Forty cars race past us and several are green. He sees a few. I’m almost home.


My daughter, wanting to join in, starts yelling numbers out too. “SEVEN! SEVEN! I SEE FIVE!”

We’re a block away. He sees a car that we don’t. He gets mad that we didn’t see it. We’re half-way down our block. He’s checking and double-checking every car on our block to get to fifteen. There’s one. Fifteen green cars. I owe him $15.

He was definitely not “borrrrred” for the rest of that drive. It did turn out to be a lot of fun for all of us, even though slightly terrifying for me when I realized there were five green cars stopped with us at a light.

I realized later, while we came up from the garage laughing, that although I thought I was teaching him how to keep himself entertained, I’m still doing it for myself as well. It’s a pretty good skill to have!

I’ve been riding my bike to work for almost a year now. Five miles to work and five miles back, five days a week, which means I’m getting somewhere around 100 to 150 miles a month on it. Sometimes I can’t ride my bike, but I try to ride to work as much as I can.

I’ll even ride in the pouring rain (thanks outlier) because it’s not that much harder than not riding in the rain, but very few people ride when it’s wet out so that means a little more elbow room at stop lights; plus it’s easier to stay cool when climbing the hills.

All this riding (and rain/mud riding) has not been great for my bike. I paid for a couple tuneups to replace some broken parts, but I didn’t realize how much I’d been neglecting my bike until I got it up on a bike stand and—well, it wasn’t good.

Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance

Enter Lennard Zinn’s Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance! I spent a couple of nights reading and the more I read the more I realized the maintenance part of it is terrifyingly easy to do. In fact it’s almost a bit embarrassing to admit that I wasn’t doing it.

So today I took the bike apart, scraped the gunk off the chain, cleaned the cassette with a toothbrush, scrubbed my rims, and oiled the chain. Just like that I could feel the difference riding around my neighborhood.

I can’t recommend Zinn’s book more. It’s highly readable and there was very little mystery about what he was talking about thanks to the many illustrations. Where I previously felt a little fearful of unscrewing something and not knowing how to screw it back on (take pictures!) I feel like I leveled up a bit and want to try more projects in the future.

A firsthand look at what it takes to be photographed at the wildly popular team collaboration platform.

Sometime last year a photographer was in the office snapping pictures. I didn’t think much about it until one day a friend messaged me that I was on Ars Technica.

I don’t normally show up on Ars Technica so I was pretty happy to find that not only was I on a site I actually read, but also for some clickbait!

What Slack is doing to our offices–and our minds

Then without doing any more work on my part, I showed up on TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch again, and Fast Company . Me! My dang face.

work hard

If you’re writing a piece about Slack, please use my face and the faces of my co-workers! Slack Assets

Behind the scenes: that balloon in the shape of a 1 is for my co-worker who had just completed their first year at Slack. The guy sitting to my left is one of my favorite people at Slack!

That guy just behind me is also pretty great. He left recently and showed up on TechCrunch himself! Look at that, me and Simon both on TechCrunch for things. Amazing.

So yeah, the secret to ending up in stock photography is just do what you love! I love sitting at work and typing computer programs and look at me now.

“Got any plans this weekend?” The banker asks me. I think there are prompts on the computer screen when there’s a delay to tell the banker they should ask me a question. I’ve come in here three times now to get temporary checks because our regular checks are packed away and I can’t find them.

I’m excited and not thinking this through. I reply, “Yeah! We’re moving into our house this weekend.”

“Oh, did you just buy a house?”

“Ah, no, we’re moving back in. We had a fire and I think we’re finally going to get to move in.” The “move-in” date has slipped and slipped many times in the past couple of months. From a far off “oh maybe at the end of that month” it’s slid around, to a very near “in two days” that has slipped twice this week. We try not to tell the kids when we’re moving back in because we don’t want them to feel the disappointment we keep feeling. They’ll know a few hours before it happens.

That’s why I’m here at the bank. I need a check to pay the water heater installer because the brand new water heater we had installed was “a piece of shit” according to the plumber who came out to figure out what the other contractor could not.

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” She’s giving me the face now I’ve seen many times in the past 8 months. I instantly regret starting this conversation because now I have to wrap it up so I can get my checks and get back to the house. I explain a bit about how the fire happened and how all our stuff (all of it!) has been in boxes all these months.

I wrap it up on a happy note. I mean, it’s a really happy thing to be moving back even though the cause was tragic. I have to keep reminding myself that this was a really fucked up thing that happened and it’s okay to feel bad about it though.

And while the insurance has been great the debt we’ve incurred is substantial. You never realize how much “stuff” you have until you leave it all and pack up a car trunk with the basics. Over the span of 8 months you begin to create a mirror world of your old life in stuff: scissors, a bucket, tape measure, house shoes, extension cords, rain coats, rain boots, dress shoes. I had to buy a new pair of leather shoes because I was wearing Converse the day the fire happened. This kills me because I have GREAT shoes. I regret not grabbing my boots that night. I have dumb regrets like this all the time.

It’s not about stuff (it’s a little about the money :sob:) but it has mainly just been how emotionally draining this has been on all of us. I’m tired at looking for silver-linings in everything. Yes, it’s great we have a new roof and new walls and floors and more electrical plugs scattered around the house, but I’d trade it all in a second to be back here on that Friday to somehow stop the fire from happening so my daughter could have her birthday in the backyard the very next day.

Our kids have been remarkable and I am proud at how good they handled all of this. I just want to get back to normal. So when the teller directs me to a banker so I can order new checks I sit down and we walk through the order. There’s a delay while her computer is working on something.

“Got any plans this weekend?”

“No, none,” I smile, with a face of real relief, “Just hanging out around the house.”

Sometimes while I browse an emoji picker I’ll make the corresponding face I’m looking for. My goto is usually :grimace: for most things these days, and so it would be very pleasing to be able to pick an emoji by grimacing at my laptop camera and having that emoji character identified and inserted in the spot I need it.

Hands on face, mouth open, mimicking a terrified scream would be a funny way to call up the :scream: emoji when you need it too.

Here’s a few pictures of my first “Chickadee House”…I am usually at my desk all day. Out the window in front of my desk are a few bird feeders, if it’s a sunny and busy bird day I’ll tape one of the homes to my window with some birdseed inside, and set my camera up.

Jada Fitch Illustration