Introducing TwiddleEast

This weekend as Israelis and Palestinians clashed again in Gaza, and it seemed like everyone had a reaction to the violence.

As I consumed the popular media, I began to think about the more pedestrian views out there. It is important to understand what the everyman thinks, even if one does not agree with him or her (and I certainly do not agree with many of the opinions out there). After all, it is only by understanding others’ points of view that we will ever get ourselves out of these international confrontations. Peace comes when people understand and interact with one another.

A great place to get at peoples’ opinions is the popular new communication tool: Twitter. Twitter allows users to post messages, opinions, and thoughts 140 characters at a time. Each post is a tiny glance at a person’s thought. If you’re not a member yet, you should give Twitter a try. It’s quite fun and addictive.

So, as I set out to glance at what people were saying about the situation in the Middle East via Twitter, I decided to build a tool that would help with this task. And so I did just that, with TwiddleEast.

Here's what TwiddleEast looks like
Here's what TwiddleEast looks like

TwiddleEast allows you to quickly glance at what people on Twitter are saying about a few of the Middle Eastern countries in the news today.

Check it out, and I’d love to hear if it is helpful to you. If there is anything I can do to make TwiddleEast better, don’t hesitate to let me know, and while you’re at it: follow me or TwiddleEast on Twitter.

Animals we’ve seen in Costa Rica so far

  • Tico Turtle in La Fortuna
  • The Costa Rican Army (Ants) carrying leaves & whole flowers
  • Howler Monkey (butt)
  • Pigs
  • Holstein Cows
  • Jersey Cows
  • Quetzal birds
  • Yellow Booby birds
  • Dogs
  • Lots of strange bugs
  • Tilapia fish
  • Owl
  • Costa Rican Air Force (Vultures)

We’re also on the lookout for:

  • Sloths
  • Capuchin Monkeys
  • Squirrel Monkeys
  • More Howler Monkeys
  • Colorful Frogs

All animals may apply.

No animals have been hurt in the making of this blog post.

I’m in Costa Rica!

Hola readers, I am writing to you from cloudy (and rainy) Monteverde, Costa Rica. Karen and I just arrived to the country yesterday, and am already having a blast.

It is gorgeous here. The drive to Monteverde was 4.5 hours long and the end was extreeeemly bumpy. We climbed to the top of a mountain on a tiny dirt road. Great stuff. I’ll post pictures when I get home.

Today we toured a cheese factory (great cheese). Tomorrow is a canopy tour. Monday is canyoning near Volcan Arenal. Woo!

More later when I’m on a faster internet connection (hopefully).

Doing Good Enough

One of the greatest things about being in Israel is the abundance of amazing hummos places. These small restaurants sometimes serve foods other than hummos, but many times it’s the main course. The hummos here is different than in the US. It’s smooth & creamy, with actual garbanzo or other beans in tact.

Of course, as a tourist I have found myself in a number of the highest quality hummos places here. Places that can be compared to In-N-Out burger in California…there’s always a line and they never disappoint.

But if you come in after 1 PM, you might not get any food at all.

In the morning, the restaurants make a good amount of hummos. When they run out, the restaurant closes. The owners know that their product is amazing, and they know they could sell just about any amount that they make, but they don’t. This is amazing to me.

This is a mindset one rarely sees in the US. The common line of thought is that if you’re selling out today, then tomorrow you should sell out more. The thing is, the fact that these restaurants sell out every day actually helps their brand. People are willing to stand in line in the heat, and come earlier than they would have liked…just to have some of that great hummos.

Anyway, this was an inspiring situation to me. A business that strived not just for money, but for balance as well.

Israir Flight 102, Ten minutes after takeoff

“Ding!” And immediately the belts were undone. Ten of them, at least, simultaneously unlatched. One man shoots up, his tsitsit swaying, as he opens up the bin above his head to pull out his suitcase. A woman next to me opens her overhead bin, and down fall blankets on to Eyttan’s head and lap.

It’s just these little things, I remember, that remind me I’ve left my place of comfort. I’m going somewhere old, but still new. What will I find, and what will I refind? Will memories of 7 year ago awaken, or lie dormant? Who knows. But I am headed away, to an unfamiliar place that I might like, or might not. My head leads me in one direction, but will my heart advise another?

We’ve hit 10,000 feet, and already I know I’m no longer home.

Never a City So Real

I’m generally not the kind of person that makes a it a point to read books about cities. Even if I’m visiting or traveling to or even living in an interesting place in the world, I haven’t been known to read about that place.

A few weeks ago I picked up Never a City So Real by Alex Kotlowitz at Powell’s, the local used book store. It was brand new, never read, and only five bucks. The purchase was not a mistake.

If you’ve been to Chicago before, you’ve probably seen all the hot tourist spots: Millennium Park, Sears Tower, Navy Pier. The list goes on. None of these places are mentioned in the book.

What are discussed in the book are the stories of a number of everyday Chicagoans. People from the Far South Side’s steel mills and the West Side’s Soul Food scene. There are stories about the downtown courthouse and Cicero’s politics. These places are not famous, and never will be. But as a Chicagoan, this book was important. It’s a celebration of the everyday style of life that this city affords. We’re not classy or stylish the way New York is, nor are we glitzy like LA. Sure we’ve got all the accoutrements of a major city…but in the end we’re all regular people.

That’s why I love Chicago. And that’s why I loved the book.

Quotable Quote:

Jack loved the city for its ingenuity, as well as for its easygoing demeanor. ‘I can’t see why anyone would want to live anywhere else in the world,’ he used to say. And he relished its tussles, large and small. He hustled, peddling his V-Vax, embracing the underdog, finding ways to reinvent himself—not for the purpose of self-aggrandizement, but rather because life is short and sometimes another path seems enticing and just worth the try.”

It’s been a while

While perusing a friend’s new site this evening, I realized that it has been a long long time since I last blogged. That’s just no good. A lot has been going on…so let’s play catch-up.

  • Karen’s sister had a baby! That put me in New York City for a few weekends in mid April. Welcome to the world, Matthew.
  • I missed out as a bunch of my friends headed to San Jose for CHI2007. From the pictures, it looks like they had a great time. I’m sad that I missed out.
  • I’m on a project for work in North Carolina, and I even get to work with some real designers. Generally, I’m the sole designer on a project, but on this one I’m just one of four. It’s great because we get to bounce ideas off of each other. Still, the design bit is tough for me because I have less context in the design space than they do. But I do get to play with some new technology…the jury is still out on whether I’m a fan. It does look cool though. The problem is that I’m really interested in Open Source stuff now that I’m a real life contributor to a project…so we’ll see how far this goes.
  • I’ve started to use Twitter. You can follow me through my days & nights.
  • Last weekend I was in Denver for ThoughtWorks Away Day. I did a talk about Contextual Design…it was pretty well received. But more on that later.
  • In the last 38 days I’ve been at home for roughly 48 hours. (And some of those hours are distributed among separate days…) One could say I’m homesick. Oh what I’d give to sleep in my own bed.
  • I’m sure there’s more.

Right now I’m getting psyched for some visitors, it seems that’s what May is all about. Sarthak, Sejal, Puneet, Scott, and sister Tami are all coming out to Chicago, and in that order. I can’t wait to see all of them.

All right, I think we’re caught up for the moment. More later.

Dropping names

It’s still always a little strange to see my name in lights. It doesn’t happen all that often, but still.

I’m still missing California a little, but my Thanksgiving trip to Phoenix helped that a little bit. The warmth was good for my soul. Sometimes I feel like I just need a good shot of sun, it always makes me a happier person.

Either way, thanks for the song, Kynthia.

Eff my effing knee!

There’s something wrong with my left knee. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but it feels like there’s something floating in it. The last thing I want is for this floater to get lodged into my knee socket, likely causing major pain. Needless to say, I’ll likely be taking a few days off from my running routine. I hope this doesn’t turn into something major.

Also, I have a cold. So, life isn’t exactly peachy-keen at the moment, but at least I’ll get to see my family tonight. That should provide some fairly major relief from all this stress (…I’ve had some late nights at work, on top of it all…). Leave some love in the comments. 🙂