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I read “One Hundred Years of Solitude” as a crazy-in-love 18 year old and was swept up by Marquez’s beautiful imagined world that spiraled and stretched into a cyclical expanse of eternal time, where love and tragedy were abundant, family was complex, and of course where magic was real & reality was magical.

In honor of his death, I want to celebrate his vision for…

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Here is the the full quote from the closing of his Nobel Lecture, when he received the the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982:

On a day like today, my master William Faulkner said, “I decline to accept the end of man”. I would fall unworthy of standing in this place that was his, if I were not fully aware that the colossal tragedy he refused to recognize thirty-two years ago is now, for the first time since the beginning of humanity, nothing more than a simple scientific possibility. Faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.

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I FAKED IT, NOW I MAKE IT!
After a decade of faking my way through Illustrator, I decided to finally learn how to properly use the tool! 
I’m taking the Skillshare class, Learn the Ins and Outs of Illustrator, and in less than 1.5 hours of video instruction I am already interacting with Illustrator on a whole new level.
Keyboard shortcuts? So much more efficient. That crazy pen tool that never made sense to me? Love it. Anchor points? Yes please. That panel on the right side of my screen? I understand (and use) it!
The course project is to reproduce our favorite print ad using Adobe Illustrator… Rules are meant to be broken, so I decided to reproduce the conceptually and visually whimsical illustrations by Vahram Muratyan. As a francophile who (sometimes) dreams of living in New York, his collection of illustrations for Paris vs New York delight me (you can buy his art prints here!) — and his graphic geometric forms are simple enough for me to replicate as an Illustrator n00b. 
In just under another 1.5 hours, I put my newfound Illustrator skills to use and recreated the basic shapes of “le surnom" representing the City of Light vs. The Big Apple. Above is an animated gif of my process, exploring the three main ways the teacher, Brad Woodward, shows us how to build forms: free form, shapes, and strokes & lines.  
Next up: the typography!

I FAKED IT, NOW I MAKE IT!

After a decade of faking my way through Illustrator, I decided to finally learn how to properly use the tool! 

I’m taking the Skillshare class, Learn the Ins and Outs of Illustrator, and in less than 1.5 hours of video instruction I am already interacting with Illustrator on a whole new level.

Keyboard shortcuts? So much more efficient. That crazy pen tool that never made sense to me? Love it. Anchor points? Yes please. That panel on the right side of my screen? I understand (and use) it!

The course project is to reproduce our favorite print ad using Adobe Illustrator… Rules are meant to be broken, so I decided to reproduce the conceptually and visually whimsical illustrations by Vahram Muratyan. As a francophile who (sometimes) dreams of living in New York, his collection of illustrations for Paris vs New York delight me (you can buy his art prints here!) — and his graphic geometric forms are simple enough for me to replicate as an Illustrator n00b. 

In just under another 1.5 hours, I put my newfound Illustrator skills to use and recreated the basic shapes of “le surnom" representing the City of Light vs. The Big Apple. Above is an animated gif of my process, exploring the three main ways the teacher, Brad Woodward, shows us how to build forms: free form, shapes, and strokes & lines.  

Next up: the typography!

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I sound like a Bay Area cliché, but I love Heath Ceramics. I love the classic but still contemporary lines. The restrained yet cheerful color palette. The smooth, cool feel of the glaze. The thickness and heft of the ceramic in your hands. I am lucky to have a collection of Heath pieces, which my family and friends help grow year after year. But I had never taken a factory tour even though I grew up less than 5 miles away from where Edith Heath founded the company in 1948 (and my dad worked on the Whole Earth Review & the Well on the very same Gate 5 Road!). Until last week!

Being in the space brought the craftsmanship in each of my pieces to life. We walked through the lifecycle of a piece from mixing the clay (yes! they make their own clay!) to firing the kiln. 

It felt so quaint especially as I tried to see it through the eyes of my two tour-mates who were former Apple Manufacturing Engineers (you call that a “production line”?!). They do not optimize for efficiency. It is not scalable. Heath’s bus factor (the total number of key people who would need to be incapacitated to prevent the production from proceeding) is dangerously low. They aren’t trying to 10x their velocity. There is only *one* person who mixes the colors of the glaze — and they can take up to 2 years to develop a new color! But that’s what I loved about it. Each piece is truly cared for by this small team of passionate designer-makers.

The process has its imperfections — just like a handmade ceramic piece. Only 2 out of 10 teapots will make it onto the showroom shelf. I’m sure this 80% failure rate is not ineluctable. Let our two Apple Manufacturing Engineer friends at it and I guarantee they would significantly increase output & decrease waste & costs. But that’s not what Heath is about.

I wonder if part of my attraction to Heath is that it provides balance to my 21st century technology-immersed existence. It is made from the earth and you grasp it in your hands.

And speaking of hands. My favorite fun fact from the tour: the Studio Mug’s handle is not just aesthetic. No “form over function.” It was designed so Edith could hold her coffee & cigarette in one hand and have the other hand free to work!

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Below is a little photo journal of my tour.

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Last month I ate lunch in silence with hundreds of other Googlers.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh — or Thay (“teacher”) for short — spent a day at Google on October 23 to explore the topic of mindfulness and how we can create technology that “helps us go home to ourselves.” More on his visit here.

His sweet whispering words formed haiku-like insights on the interconnectedness of happiness and suffering. He was simultaneously simple and complex:

You can see my full sketch notes from his stream-of-consciousness Dharma talk below.

But the part of Thay’s visit that taught me the most was not his talk, but our mindful lunch together.

Hundreds of Googlers gathered in Charlie’s, the main cafe & event space at the Googeplex in Mountain View. In silence, we each filed to the cafeteria lines to get our food — all vegetarian and lovingly prepared under the direction of Chef Liv Wu — and returned to our seats, arranged theater-style, facing Thay and his crew of brown-robed monks and nuns from Plum Village. In silence, we each sat with our plates of food resting on our laps until *everyone* was back in their seat and ready to eat.

I have never sat with my food for 20 minutes before eating — let alone in a room filled with people not speaking a word. With that much time to see and smell before tasting, I took the time to think about where the food I was about to eat came from. I looked down at my rainbow plate of shredded swiss chard with lentils, bok choy with persimmon salsa, rice noodles with carrots + cilantro, and tried to imagine the kaleidoscope of different people (farmers, truck drivers, merchants, chefs) who must have touched my food on the way from the farm to my plate.

Once everyone was seated we could begin eating — which, too, happened in silence. Our instruction: to take each bite mindfully. After each bite, we had to put down our forks so that we were not preparing for our next bite, but instead focused on the food in our mouths.

All of a sudden my mouth was an explosion of flavor. Never before had bok choy tasted the way it did! How could I ever think of it as watery? Not this! This bok choy was infused with garlic and ginger, and with each bite it released a subtle bitter juice that filled my palate. The meal ended with me savoring each bite of my thin almond cookie and melting into some other state of consciousness while a little old nun sang us into deep relaxation in her French Vietnamese accent. Yum.

For most of my career I’ve been on a mission for intangible causes, working on things that I cannot hold in my hands: culture, habits, organizational ecosystems, learning about learning… When we opened The Garage at Google in August last year, it was the first time I was able to physically interact with — and iterate on — a product I worked on of this scale.

Standing in the space seems unreal. It is the physical manifestation of my — and my team’s — philosophy on innovation… A space designed for serendipity. A commons where Googlers & their ideas can collide. A culture where trying new things is the norm. A lab where ideas are transformed into prototypes. A community of people who are always learning and teaching each other new things. An environment where new ideas get the chance to grow, morph, and evolve before they flourish or die.

And thanks to Fast Company, you can now take a virtual tour of the space by watching the series of 3 videos they produced. The Garage community came together to bring the different aspects of our hacker/maker/design space to life — and Tony, Roxy and AK from BFD Productions captured the energy and ethos of The Garage. In the short films you see a design thinking workshop in-action, 20%ers at work, 3D prints in-progress and office hours for our introduction to electronics course. For me, this was a beautiful, energetic, heart-warming demonstration of how Googlers have made The Garage their own over the last year:

When The Garage first opened in August, it was little more than an industrial-feeling workshop with concrete floors, whiteboard walls, and our custom-designed furniture. First we worked on the aesthetics to give it warmth and a more Garage-y feel…

We went to Home Depot and bought a bunch of power tools to mount on the wall and construction lights to hang with each of the power & networking drops… those lights have since become a symbol of the Garage and served as the inspiration behind our (community-designed!) logo. 

We went to a Pick-n-Pull… which is where dying cars go to really die. You bring or rent tools and you can leave with whatever you are able to save from the graveyard of cars. There we were, a handful of Googlers in the sweaty heat of a San Jose summer, the sun beating down on us as we popped hub caps off of tires, unscrewed grilles from old Ford and Chevy trucks and somehow managed to liberate two back seats. We spray painted the hubcaps Google colors and mounted the backseats on wheels. 

But what really made The Garage *The Garage* over the last year — and I know this sounds cheesy — is the community. While I’m in front of the camera for most of the Fast Company pieces, there are so many people behind the scenes, without whom The Garage simply wouldn’t exist. It is totally volunteer-run. None of us are paid to keep The Garage going… we do it because we love it. My Garage teammates are what make Google Googley for me. This is The Garage team. 

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When I first tried to learn Python a year ago, it was like traveling to Japan when I was ten years old, surrounded by the sounds and sights of Japanese for the first time. I became familiar with the sound of the language and was introduced to its cadence and character. I learned how to say hello, please and thank you, but I didn’t totally understand what was going on. 

One of the reasons my first attempt at learning Python while I was working full-time wasn’t a success? I just didn’t have enough time for it — and programming takes time. I remember working on my homework assignments and all of a sudden two hours had passed and I was late for a meeting. And BTW, I have a whole new appreciation for why software engineers don’t like meetings. Just when you feel like you are about to solve the problem, you have to stop what you are doing to attend what is probably not a well-run meeting… and then when you return to your desk it takes a good while to remember what you were doing before you were interrupted… then repeat. I found the back-and-forth context switching of learning programming during breaks to be too taxing on my attention. If I really wanted to understand programming, I needed to immerse my brain in this new way of seeing & thinking

The last two months were an opportunity to dive deeper and not just recognize the language, but learn how to speak it. 

My dad and I used a combination of 2 online learning tools & curricula to guide our learning:

  1. Learn Python the Hard Way taught us how to read code
  2. Udacity’s Introduction to Computer Science  taught us how to speak code

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The Garage said “Hello World!” today thanks to this piece by Fast Company

This 2-minute video let’s you go inside The Garage at Google, the hacker/maker/design space I co-imagined, co-designed and co-manage.

Just as The Garage facilitates & fosters collaboration, it was a *collaborative* effort to create. It is run by a team of passionate volunteers who live, breathe and teach the ethos of the space. The Garage wouldn’t exist without these awesome folks, who make me proud to be a Googler! 

CONGRATS to my partners-in-crime: Tim, Aaron, Sydney, Chris, Nadya, Frederik, and David!

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Why should I learn to program? I have no intention of becoming a software engineer. However, I do think that knowing how to code is a basic literacy for surviving & thriving in the world today. As Douglas Rushkoff advises, we all need to learn to program or we will end up being programmed by others.

In many ways, software has become — has always been — my secondary nervous system, coordinating & sometimes governing the way I communicate, learn, move from place to place, find out what I need to know. For this reason, even if I never build anything with what I learned, I think it is valuable to have a basic understanding of how things work — like understanding the physics of the digital world. But why wouldn’t I want to program a machine to automate repetitive tasks and make my life more efficient? It frees up more time for me to do more creative work. What a gift!

At first — and to some extent still — my brain hurt after studying Python for a few hours. Just as my muscles are sore after a good workout, my brain was physically tired from training it to think in a way it wasn’t accustomed. But over the past two months, I started the process of rewiring my brain to think in a new way. A few weeks ago I even dreamed about code! (Okay, so it was the English equivalent of me saying the ABCs but still!)

In my next post I will share *how* my dad and I started learning Python and my recommendations for how to learn both the fundamental concepts of programming and how to apply that knowledge to actually build something. 

But first, here are a few of the beautiful & sometimes painful lessons I learned about programming. In short: programming teaches you to experiment, fail, ask questions, be creative and collaborate.

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