Why I Returned My Nest Protects

[Ed. Note:  What follows is part of a letter I wrote to contacts at Nest explaining my dissatisfaction with the Nest Protect smoke+CO alarms I bought.  I thought it would be useful for other people considering buying them.  I will note that the people at Nest contacted me quickly & were helpful in processing the return and explaining why the product functioned as it does.  That being said, though helpful, they could not help me.]

I have been a big fan of what you guys are doing at Nest, but I wanted to tell you why I’m returning my five Nest Protects.  I’ve spoken to your customer support staff & while they’ve been helpful, they can’t actually help me.
Sad nest


First some background, so you can understand how I got to this point. 
When the Nest Protect smoke alarm was announced, I was instantly curious because I really like my Nest thermostat.  I watched the video and my curiosity turned quickly into excitement because the video showed the Protect fixing all the frustrations I had with my smoke alarms and all the annoyance & risk those problems caused!  
At that moment our smoke alarms were sitting in a heap off in a corner, because we had disabled them so many times.  When I looked at them, I’d think “Ugh, that’s really bad. You’re risking a fire because of that heap.”  Then I went on with my life, but slightly more disconcertedly…

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Kimberly’s 37th Birthday Skullduggery: 2nd Time’s the Charm

[Ed. Note: This is the big write up to the Skullduggery (“puzzle & activity hunt”) on 8/2/2014 that I put on for Kimberly’s 37th birthday. If you want to skip to just the clues and/or answers – jump to here. This is the second one I’ve done for Kimberly’s birthday – here is the write up of the first, from last year. NOTE: If you played and don’t want to read all this, at least make sure you skip to the video at the bottom – it’s awesome!]


AdventureConleys! (this shot alone is everything I wanted out of this skullduggery!)
(courtesy of Keri Maijala)


YAY! This year, I pulled it off! This year, my Skullduggery for Kimberly’s birthday was what I hoped: Big fun for Kimberly, big fun for the people who played, and big fun for me to make (albeit exhausting – again!).

I’m writing this a few days later, still basking in the post-creative-glow, that feeling you get when you have created something that you just really love. So, what was the biggest difference between this year and last? 

This time, I realized that there is more awesome in “less grand but really well made” than there is in “super grand but kinda janky”

Last year, I had much less sense of how hard it would be & also aimed to do much, much more. The result was far from what I hoped. This year, I knew exactly how hard it would be & aimed to do what I could. As it was, it was still a little more than I could sanely manage, but I pulled it off nonetheless. There is plenty of room for improvement, but this time it was still great: I had SO MUCH FUN & so did the birthday girl & most of the players!

I’m looking forward to doing another one already! 🙂 Next year, the challenge will be to do it without nearly killing myself (I have a plan!)…

Big THANKS to everyone who came out & played!


Here is my write up explaining all the clues & their answers.

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The ‘Deep Slate: June 2014 Edition

FOLKS: I’m really sorry this is so late (TODAY is election day) & frankly I’m not even finished with this (I haven’t explained the positions below) – but it will be up before 6pm today I swear (& hopefully sooner!)

Gov: Jerry Brown Lt Gov: Gavin Newsom Sec State: Alex Padilla Controller: John A. Pérez Treasurer: John Chiang Att. Gen: Kamala Harris Ins. Comm: Dave Jones Board of Eq: Fiona Ma US Rep: Barry Hermanson / Nancy Pelosi State Assembly: David Campos Sup: Tom Torlakson Judge: Daniel Flores

Prop 41: Veterans Housing Bond: Yes Prop 42: Legislative Const. Amendment: Yes

Prop A: Earthquake Safety Bond: Yes Prop B: Voter Approvale for Waterfront Dev Height: NO

Hobbitses! A Few Thoughts on Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” So Far…

Hobbit the desolation of smaug ver15 xlg
10 years ago, the biggest things occupying my mind, other than the vast outrages of the Bush administration, were hobbits.  More specifically, Peter Jackson’s “Lord of The Rings” movies.  
From 2000-2004, Jackson had given me a slice of my early teens back, but with all the benefit of my adult years, some great actors, and some kick-ass special effects.  During that time, I read Tolkien’s trilogy at least 10 times & “The Hobbit”, “The Silmarillion” & “The Unfinished Tales” several times as well. I watched the movies endlessly, seeing things onscreen that I had wanted to see all my life:
7732 orig
I obsessed over all of it, from the characters, portrayals, and scenes to the film-making & story-telling itself. The books became a touchstone for meaningful consideration of deeper subjects in my life as well, from environmental ones, to the understanding of sadness and loss, to the meaning of hope.  
Thus, it was perhaps a little surprising that I went to see the first installment of Jackson’s “The Hobbit” 2 years ago, with almost no enthusiasm & very low expectations.
It had all gone wrong for me in “The Return of the King”, the third LOTR (Lord Of The Rings) movie, with a few things I found unforgivable (“Arwen’s fate is now tied to the Ring” – Gah! & the Army of The Dead being this unstoppable force) that I was largely done with Jackson’s versions of Middle Earth.  On top of that,“The Hobbit” is a not a great book.  It is a “kid’s book”, in the worst sense of the phrase, unfortunately.  All that meant that when I heard Jackson was making “The Hobbit,” I thought “Meh, well at least I’ll get to see a big dragon on screen.” (That all being said, see this…)
I’m so happy I was wrong. Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” movies, so far, have been SO. MUCH. FUN.  The first one was pretty good & this second one has been great.  I loved it.  And I’ve been obsessing about Hobbitsess again.  Thank you Mr. Jackson.  I can’t wait for Part 3.
What follows are a few thoughts from my obsessions:

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Halloween 2013: Ridiculous, Awesome & The Quest for Paleontological Accuracy in Glamosaurs

[Ed. Note. What follows is the write up of my latest ridiculous Halloween escapade: Glamosaur 3.0, along with an explanation of how I made it. If you really just want to see the pics, click here, or the “making of” pics, click here. At the end of this post, there is a bit more about my Halloween FlashDance, including the playlist. Thanks & ROWR!!!  Also, If you want to see the 1.0 version from 2006 or the 2.0 version from 2009 here are the links.]

[Also: If you like what you hear about Sew-Op down below – please DONATE – they are just getting under way and could really use your help!]

deep 2



“Didn’t you do that one already?” – Dave, my boss, upon seeing the awe-inspiring and completely new Glamosaur 3.0

“So what was the difference in materials between this glam-o-saur and the last one? Shiny fabric stuffed with foam vs … ?” – my friend Geoff on Facebook

“Oh cool! Hey – aren’t you the guy who dressed up as a Disco Ball? When are you going to do that again?” – Woman in the Apple Cafeteria


After 3 attempts, I finally made a dinosaur costume that was AWESOME. Glamosaur 3.0! All 3 have been ridiculous, but this was the first that was ridiculous and awesome. As seen above, however, “awesome” to me, and “awesome” to my public are somewhat different – but, oh well, I’m always the most important audience. Luckily, the above comments notwithstanding, most of the people who saw my costume seemed to enjoy it as much as I did, except, of course, when they were TERRIFIED:

Glamosaur 3.0 http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7401/10667097034_f78b3618b7.jpg

See! I am TOTALLY fearsome!

And as for me? I had a BLAST in it. How much of a blast? Well this video from my Halloween FlashDance party pretty much sums up how much fun I was having:

Glamosaur 3.0 Goes to FlashDance

The Making Of: Sewing + Skeleton

Fundamentally, my approach to Halloween is marked by the fact that while I have only very rudimentary crafting/engineering ability, I have loads of enthusiasm and am fairly imaginative. This tends to make every October a fresh slalom through harebrained schemes, crushing disappointments, crafting-related debris fields, and deadline pressure. But the upsides are actually even bigger: lots of creative problem solving, dreaming up & experimenting with new construction techniques, and refining ideas I’ve stumbled upon in past costumes, and mostly-amusing failures. And then, in the end, I usually have a costume that is at worst bad but amusing, or at best, awesome (& in this year’s case, quite ridiculous!).

The biggest difference between this dino and the last? I learned THE SEWING! (I know! Right!?! With like, thread & bobbins & stuff!). 

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The ‘Deep Slate: November 2013 Edition

DeepSlate Logo

[Ed. Note: After years of the ‘Deep Slate being email only, last year I moved it to my blog as well as email. You can find all the online ones here]

  1. You can find your polling place in SF HERE or for the rest of CA HERE.
  2. You can print just the LIST (all the better to take to the polls) from HERE.

Thanks again to the number of folks who have asked me for my opinions. I know I say it every time but it is quite true: I really am honored by your interest.

I’m really sorry I haven’t gotten to this sooner, but well, as usual October was busy & I’ve just had too much on my plate. And honestly, this election, while important is a snoozer. There is nothing I feel really excited about but nonetheless there are important things there. So let’s just do this, shall we.

As today *IS* election day, I hope you go vote & remember that polls are open until 8pm and you can also vote at City Hall, regardless of your polling place!

If you like what you read, please do let me know! Also questions, criticisms, comments welcome!




The format of this post is simple:

  1. The LIST: The simple list of my endorsements for this election
  2. The DETAILS: The whys and wherefores of each endorsement.
  3. My VALUES: A brief explanation of my values and sources, to help make sense of my opinions.


The key is as follows:

San Francisco Elections:

Assessor-Recorder: Carmen Chu
Treasurer: Jose Cisneros
Board of Supervisors D4: Katy Tang

Prop. A: Retiree Health Care Trust Fund: Yes*
Prop. B: 8 Washington Street Initiative: NO
Prop. C: 8 Washington Street Referendum: No
Prop. D: Prescription Drug Purchasing: Yes*

If you want these as a handy, printable list, just click here.

Read on for the details of why I’m recommending the above…

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Kimberly’s 36th Birthday Skullduggery: Epic Awesome with a Side of Fail

[Ed Note: What follows a description of “Kimberly’s 36th Birthday Skullduggery” puzzle hunt.    This post is long, but much of it is just for me, or the *really* curious.  If you played, you might only be interested in the Complete Set of Answers & Clues.  That being said, to understand why I did it & what went right and wrong, I also recommend folks read the Introduction & Lessons Learned.  If you’re really really interested, you can read the Making of (Appendix A). The last part, the Specific Improvements for Next time (Appendix B) is really just for my benefit for next time I do one :-0 but feel free to read it if you’ve read everything else :-)]

#10a Display at Valencia Whole Foods
Chocolates for Clue #10 (see below for details)



This year, I realized that after just shy of a year of being married I was already at risk of being sent to “Lame Spouse Re-education Camp” due to the fact that the last 3 years we have done almost nothing for Kimberly’s birthday.  While I was preparing my defense (“We were traveling! And there was a MAJOR work push! And last year we were busy getting married!”) it became clear that I was doomed.  

Eventually, it dawned on me that my only hope was to go BIG: Do something EPIC for her birthday this time around. In thinking it through, I also realized that her birthday fell on Sunday Streets Mission and that it was the Sunday Streets closest to our wedding day.  Practically our anniversary. More reasons to go BIG!

After still more thinking, it came to me: I would do a SKULLDUGGERY!  

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Yellowstone via Rail (& a bit of car): The Train + Megafaunapalooza!

[Ed Note: I’ve posted my best pictures from this trip here on Flickr, but note that I have no wolf shots (small zoom!) – luckily someone else who was watching our first wolf, had a scope with a camera – so you can also check those shots here. (Thanks again Nina Blakley!)]

Kimberly & I just got back from a great vacation to Yellowstone that provided me with two great revelations, both worthy of their own blog post! But I’m passing the savings on to you, dear reader, because I’ll write them up here as one combo-blog post – saving you 50% of the required reading! ‘Deeptrouble is all about value!

The small but gloriously relaxing revelation was taking Amtrak to Salt Lake City. The big giant MEGAFAUNAPALOOZA revelation was Yellowstone National Park. You can read on for both or skip to which ever seems most interesting (train or wildlife) & if nothing else, check out the pictures here.

Subadult Grizzly Bear - Jenny Lake, Grand Tetons

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Our Unexpected Year with Baozi: Slow Leaks, Parenting Tests, & Deep Love

A year ago last Monday, Kimberly and I adopted young Baozi (包子), our German Shepherd mix1 puppy. “Baozi,” pronounced “Bow-dzuh,” means  “little stuffed bun” in Mandarin.  As you can see below, she certainly was a little dim sum when got her at about 3 months old.  Now, at 1 year & 3 months, “giant stuffed bun” would be more appropriate.  We could have expected that change, but there were a lot of things we didn’t expect…

3 months old
3 months old

for this & more pics, see my “Year of Baozi” album

I had expected a month or so of pure chaos and plenty of joy, but that isn’t what happened.

For starters, the total chaos never happened. I thought the first few weeks would be a whole lot of cuteness – but also like a puppy bomb exploded in our house: there would be poop and destruction left, right, and center. It never happened. Sure, there was a total rearrangement of our schedule, but it felt surprisingly manageable. And she really didn’t destroy much.2

Having a puppy was simply awesome as far as I was concerned! SO. MUCH. CUTE. I was sooo happy! SO. FASCINATING. Then, a month or so in, I found Kimberly angry and upset with “everything” & I couldn’t understand why. She explained all that was wrong & I tried to convince her otherwise, but in doing so I realized she was right, actually. My life had become a mess, without me noticing.

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India 2012: Trust, Chai, & The Taj

All India Permit

It’s been a few weeks now & I’m finally psychologically “home” as in “back from travels” (In addition to our trip to the genetic LOMP (Land Of My People), we had a quick trip to the historical LOMP: North Carolina). As is the case after all my big trips, I return with lots of thoughts and reflections from my adventures… I like writing them down especially for myself, but also in hopes that some of you will find them at least entertaining.

If you want to skip all my blather & just go look at the pics, check out My Top 25 pix &/or the Next Best 60 pix, but otherwise, what follows is a series of thoughts & comments from our trip:

(Feel free to just jump around to the parts that sound interesting, or read it all the way through… )

View India 2012 in a larger map


I’ve now traveled to India 3 times as an adult (in addition to a handful of times as a child) & think that I’m starting to understand it a tiny bit. I’ve spent more time in India than any other foreign country by a long shot. It’s a hard but rewarding country.

I never quite get it when travelers tell me that they “loved India” or “hated India” – to me it is always so much more complicated. To both sets of people, my question is “were you really looking?”, because in the same 5 minutes I’d find something I loved juxtaposed with something I hated.

I guess maybe people mean “I loved traveling in India” or “I hated traveling in India.” I can completely understand both of those sentiments. For a Westerner, India is loud, intense, smelly, trashed, and above all else, chaotic. It is also rich, colorful, fascinating, simultaneously ancient & new, diverse, and rambunctiously alive. In the end, India is all of the above, and intensely so.

(back to Contents)
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