January 2020 In Review

In which the author works a lot, flies to California, and survives the Iowa Caucuses

A project I did with the Washington Post launched: David Byler’s Caucus Simulator which is an interactive user-tweakable model. David did some amazing work in R and it was my job to make it so that users could change some variables and get model results back. There was also some interesting work done to make the model statically-generated every time new poll results were released, instead of using the model through an API and having to deal with the load and performance implications. Instead it’s just static files on S3, which I think is pretty cool.

In the beginning of the month I flew to Oakland to take a much-needed break, as I was starting to burn out. I love the Bay and like visiting every few months if I can. This is the first time I’ve stayed in downtown Oakland, and I never ended up going to San Francisco.

I’ve been playing around a bit with Spark AR Studio , which you can use to make your own instagram filters.

I wanted to get Ian to play around with it, as he generally works magic on any new creative coding platform pretty quickly and I was curious what he thought of the tool.

He ended up making a pretty cool four-face filter and how-to video with an intro I made on my OP-1 while he was working.

Ghost who is an amazing Oakland photographer graciously showed me his studio at Arthaus Studios in Oakland and I got to watch him and Brandon Ruffin do a photoshoot of Iamsu! which was super-interesting. I’m so used to shooting in the street with natural light that I didn’t even know how to start thinking about the studio lighting and backgrounds. I tried to stay out of the way and shoot some shots of everyone working.

I got to see the touchscreen apps I made for NBC and CBS on TV simultaneously which was cool.


I watched most of Next In Fashion which I enjoyed. I really like Netflix’s approach to making really positive reality TV. All of the contestants generally support each other, and the drama is between the contestants and the show, not necessarily each other. The Circle is similar in this way. If this is a trend, I like it.


I’ve been reading Call Them by Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit, which is great. It is made up of small, quick essays. I like this because I can squeeze in some reading and actually finish something over my cup of coffee in the morning. It paints a wholly unnerving and yet somehow still inspirational picture of the trouble America we are living in. She puts incredibly complicated subjects you feel floating in the air into simple concrete turns of phrase.

I have also been reading On Trails by Robert Moor. He wanders from spirituality to ecology and there are interesting insights in nearly every paragraph. He explores what can be learned about the trails made by animals, wild and domestic. He also explores the trails of humans, both physical and mental.

When I was younger I used to see the earth as a fundamentally stable and serene place, possessed of a delicate, nearly divine balance, which humans had somehow managed to upset. But as I studied trails more closely, this fantasy gradually evaporated. I now see the earth as the collaborative artwork of trillions of sculptors, large and small. Sheep, humans, elephants, ants: each of us alters the world in our passage. When we build hives or nests, mud huts or concrete towers, we re-sculpt the contours of the planet. When we eat, we convert living matter into waste. And when we walk, we create trails. The question we must ask ourselves is not whether we should shape the earth, but how.