It’s cold, rainy and green as an emerald outside. A fascinating and welcome change of pace from this native Californian’s usual scenery. I’m getting breakfast at Peter’s Yard, sweet herring and a cappuccino, off the Middle Meadow Walk in Edinburgh.
The last time I was in Scotland was almost 4 years ago for the The Fringe Fest. Since then a lot has happened. Fringe came and went, I picked up some robotics contracts, learned a lot about design and manufacturing, started a company, and fell in love. Twice. ‘Busy’ doesn’t quite begin to describe it. As such, I’ve let this space languish for a while now, and it’s time to pick it back up again.
I’m funemployed again, and this time I have a much better idea of what this kind of freedom is for. 5 years ago, when I left the Fruit Company, the prospect of financially free-falling was a frightening one. So much so that it kept me at a job I justifiably hated for far too long. Once I was out of the nest I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out what came next. I had a singular goal: to not continue being a software engineer. I failed pretty miserably at that in the end, but the time spent outside the code-mines was a useful exercise. I spent some time in the circus, some time building giant industrial art, a month staying up till dawn drinking and playing minecraft (no regrets about that last one.) I helped build out a warehome. I did a lot of things, but I didn’t do much travel, and that’s something do I have regrets about.
So I bought a one-way ticket to Berlin a few weeks ago. My partner S & I had our 3 year anniversary coming up, and she was going to be at a conference there. It had been 7 years since I last visited Berlin for a friends hardware hacking conference. I taught a workshop on power distribution in wearable electronics, made a bunch of friends, and wandered around the Tiergarten with a camera.
This time we stayed with friends who had immigrated recently. Their enormous apartment (by Bay Area standards) was largely barren, most of their possessions still residing back in the Old Country. We talked about how The Bay has become unsustainable, how the tech industry, my industry, has reached a fever pitch in its cultural terraforming of the old spaces. Signs of insanity are everywhere. $5 lattes. $1800/mo bunk beds in a shared room. I arrived fresh off the boat in 1996 for the first tech boom. This one doesn’t feel like it’s going to blow out like it did the first time. The San Francisco I knew is never coming back, just like every San Francisco before it.
So with that ominous backdrop, it was unsurprising that three separate friends made a solid effort to convince me to abandon the bay and move to Berlin. I’m flattered, and for the first time since arriving in the Bay, I having nothing anchoring me there. Given a small planet to explore, is the Bay really the best place for me? Can I import the parts I love someplace else?
That’s the goal for the next 6 months, to see other parts of the world, to figure out what else is out there.