“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
“I think it is unnatural to think that there is such a thing as a blue-sky, white-clouded happy childhood for anybody. Childhood is a very, very tricky business of surviving it. Because if one thing goes wrong or anything goes wrong, and usually something goes wrong, then you are compromised as a human being. You’re going to trip over that for a good part of your life.”
After four separate reviews I’d begun to worry that I’d written all there was to write about ginger beer. But during the second half of 2011 my luck began to change as I stumbled upon a handful of new varieties. A chance discovery at Mission Cheese Shop, a couple overlooked gingers, and a bountiful trip to Seattle led to a full cooler of five beverages yet to face the gauntlet that is a ginger beer tasting.
With the product lineup established, an esteemed panel of tasters gathered in San Francisco’s Noe Valley. Representing a cross section of experience, our judges, seven in total included veterans William Lavery, Beatrice Leung, and yours truly along with rookies Andrew Stewart, Peter Rive, Natasha Dvorak, and Wendy Wallin. In order to calibrate each judge’s palette a pre-tasting was undertaken to establish where previous ginger beers had been ranked. The criteria remained the same as our first tasting two years. Each ginger would be sampled solo and next mixed into a Dark ‘n’ Stormy – dark rum and ginger beer over ice. Judges then assigned a score between 1 and 10. Finally, an average score was computed to arrive at an overall total. After weeks of hype we settled down to the task at hand and a couple hours later the results were in.
My design expertise lies in the digital realm, creating experiences that unfold as web sites, iPhone apps, or video games, so it’s rare that I see my work in a tangible format like print. But in the past few months we’ve had the opportunity at Kiva to release a few high profile print advertisements that appeared in Variety Magazine, USA Today, as well as one of our own mailers. These pieces not only increased Kiva’s exposure outside the digital medium, but they’ve also helped establish one of our core design principals: story telling.
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Another year has come and gone faster than I imagined. As I reflect, there were many more good memories than bad. Most significant of all was marrying my wonderful wife. The rest, however, makes for a good list in any year: a new job at Kiva, the launch of Farmanac – my first iPhone app, a trip to Bali, three visits to British Columbia, and a great year of skiing in Tahoe and surfing at Ocean Beach. With so much of our attention constantly focused forward it’s great to take a minute and look back. Here is a brief recap of my 2011.
Kudos to the Wikimedia foundation for focusing on the development of a new editor for Wikipedia. During my time at Wikia I stressed the need for a simple editing experience in order to diversify its users and increase contributions. Wikipedia has become the central repository for information in the digital age but it suffers from a small and insular user base among its editors. Today, most contributions to Wikipedia are from white middle-aged males with a college degree, living in a developed country and with a strong technical understanding. This skews both the type of articles that appear on Wikipedia and the perspective which they are written from. The challenge they face is how to expand the demographics of those writing and editing entries. They need to attract more people in developing countries, more woman, and users who are less technically savvy in order to become a true digital encyclopedia representing the the world’s collective knowledge.
Bali – the word conjures up a vision of idyllic beaches, perfect surf, and terraced rice fields set to the backdrop of a rich Hindu culture. This fabled island was at the top of my list of desired destinations for many years. And in November I was fortunate enough to spend three weeks on the island with my new wife. She indulged me as I dragged her from one famous surf spot to the next. And in between my search for waves we explored Hindu temples, trekked through a rice field to find an organic restaurant, and ended our trip diving on the reefs off the island of Lombok.
“To steal from someone and not feel bad, you either have to be a sociopath or view the act differently. One way is to remove “Someone” from the equation. You’re not stealing from a person. Big companies do a lot to help people view them as less than human. I heard a speech by Noam Chomsky who said that corporations are like super humans. They cannot be hurt like a human can and they never die. They are not susceptible to scrutiny or accountability. This makes them more profitable. If companies want to enjoy these benefits to some degree they have to live with what else comes with being not human. You miss out on compassion, forgiveness, camaraderie, empathy, trust all kinds of shit.”
Over the past few years on 2 Out of Three we’ve tasted our fair share of ginger beer. In four separate tastings we’ve sampled and scored over twenty-five ginger beers. Disappointingly, it had begun to appear that we had exhausted the ginger beer possibilities in the US of A. So it was with great excitement when I was served Artisan Elixir, a new entrant to the ginger pool, at the Mission Cheese Shop.
Artisan Elixer made an immediate impression with a classic yellow label and bold block text declaring itself a “Golden Ginger.” Upon inspection it was obvious this was going to be a beer to be reckoned with, with clouds of ginger and lemon sediment formed into bands throughout the bottle. On the back of the bottle the creator’s intentions are spelled out: “Perfect for MIXING / Excellent for SIPPING.” While this is a broad statement, a glance at the simple ingredient list – filtered water, organic agave, organic lemon, organic ginger and organic lemon emulsion – assured us Artisan Elixir is out to make a high quality bottle of ginger.