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Reading in the midst of inspiration

Inspiration is vital to a creative person—or any person for that matter. Barcelona, Spain is one of the most inspiring places I've been to. Perhaps it is the layers of history that has created such a vast resource of creativity. The United States has only been a few hundred years old, so we have a lot of catching up to do. We'll get there, I'm sure of it.

This photo is of one of my favorite places. It's a small park behind Sagrada Familia. It's no bigger than 1000 sq ft but has a pond that is surrounded by park benches. I sat here to get inspired, whether it was reading a book on my kindle, looking at the massive Modernist church in the background or people watching.

I ended up reading here for about three hours before it started raining and I walked back to my apartment.

I have a feeling this place will be a moment of realization and inspiration as I reflect upon my life when it is all said and done.

Sagrada Familia


I want to build cathedrals

A day where I woke up at 3pm turned out to become one of the most inspiring days ever. I’ve had a really hard time sleeping in Barcelona and usually turn in around 5am each morning…yes, morning. My flexible work schedule and friends back home (timezone difference) are the reasons I think I’m staying up late.

I decided to spend the day in Gracia (which is my favorite neighborhood) to grab some food and walk around. Little did I realize I was so close to Sagrada Familia, arguably Antoni Gaudi’s most famous work. I quickly finished my tapas and worked my way over there.

I didn’t even need my GPS to know where I was…just followed the giant spires over the horizon. When I got there I was blown away. I’ve seen my share of Gothic and Baroque buildings, but never seen a Spanish Modernist church before. It looked like if minimalism and Baroque had a baby!

It took two hours for me to completely experience the structure and I even went up to the top. Here’s the thing I realized…

I want to build cathedrals.

Yes, I realize that Sagrada Familia is actually a basilica, but “I want to build basilicas” is a bit more ambiguous! Just roll with it, k?

This is the analogy I’m telling my colleagues at Xhatch. We need to build web apps as cathedrals. I am now convinced that Gaudi is one of the greatest User Experience Designers ever. Every element has been considered in how it’s made and what the user is supposed to feel in that instance. This is how applications should work too.

The other aspect is the quality and craftsmanship a cathedral takes. Now when I work on code for an app, I’m going to refine and refine, similar to those marble stairs I saw.

Every little detail has been considered.

I have never been so inspired in such a long time, and I will dedicate my life to build cathedrals, whether it is in the form of a web app or some other aspect of my life.

Thank you, Antoni Gaudi.


So, when are you actually going to do it?

This isn't a rant.

Maybe. I'm not sure.

I am certain that I'm not calling out anyone in particular, but everyone in general—if it applies.

The new media of social sharing allows us to read some amazing things. Take the death of Osama bin Laden for example. So many people found the story on Twitter, except my friend Steve, who found out from Geraldo Rivera. It also allows us to see things in "preview" and before they develop...almost too much.

How often do you or someone you know seem to say "I have big things in the works" only to realize that you haven't done sh*t? I'm certainly guilty of it. In a "tweet first and think later" this is definitely possible. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad thing. In fact, this can be great. It's like calling a shot or the "we're going to make the playoffs" statement in social media. It holds you accountable to do what you say you're going to do.

Here are some things I think about before I talk about doing it:

  • Why the Hell are you talking about it vs. actually doing it?
  • Do you need to talk about it?
  • What's the benefit of talking about it before you do?

Don't get me wrong, there are sometimes reasons you talk about something—to gauge an audience or discover things. Sometimes...it's just noise. I love Nike's brand because they promote a lifestyle of action. I absolutely love this billboard:

There is a dream I want to pursue but I have put it on ice for the last few years because of my current ambitions and my lack of knowledge in the industry. What am I going to do? I downloaded some books on my Kindle and am going to study until I can do it.

So I ask you my friends...what is it that you want to do, and when are you actually going to do it?

"I know it's easy to imagine but it's easier to just do. See, if you can't do what you imagine, then what is imagination to you?" —Kid Cudi, Enter Galactic (Man on the Moon)


My social media workout plan

This kind of started as a joke, but I think I'm going to do it.

I used to be a very fit person when I played football, basketball and ran track in high school. Now it seems like I'm too busy with work and watching Star Wars to get exercise in. However, I have lost a significant amount of weight while in Europe from all the walking and other basic exercises. The news about Arnold Schwarzennegger's divorce made me sad, but it also reminded me of how he was (or is) such a great advocator for health. What did AH-NOLD teach me as a kid? Simply do pushups, situps, squats and jumping jacks.

It's better than doing nothing.

Since I use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram so much, I thought I'd put together a little regiment:

  • 10 pushups per organic tweet. (@replies and aggregated content does not count)
  • 10 calf raises per Twitter @ reply.
  • 10 lunges per Twitter retweet.
  • 10 jumping jacks per Foursquare checkin.
  • 20 situps per Facebook status update.
  • 15 squats per Instagram photo.

If I exceed my API limit for the hour, then I have to go run until I'm out of Twitter Jail!

If I'm not at my house, I'm going to tally the amount of posts and do the exercises later. I just don't know if it's a good idea to start busting out pushups on the bus, or at someone's wedding. Yes, I tweet during weddings.

What do you think?


I love you Paris, but it's time for Barcelona

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As I'm packing a box of items to ship back to the United States, I can't help but sit in disbelief that I've been in Paris for weeks and that it is time to move on. The City of Lights is a city I can always call home, and someday might call it home—permanently. Here are a few things I did:

  • Retraced my steps from my last visit (2005) on the first night.
  • Stayed with one of my best friends and collaborated on projects together. This is what I want—to be able to travel and work.
  • Randomly meet up with my friends Lorraine, Rachel and Vivian to have coffee or hang out.
  • Revisit stores and get to know the people living in the Marais.
  • Converse with Parisians in French.
  • Visited the Apple Store four times. This was actually not cool because it was about replacing my MacBook Air, which died.
  • Had a MacBook Pro shipped from the United States.
  • Went to the top of the Eiffel Tower...and took a picture of Darth Vader.
  • Tried to roller blade from Bastille to the Eiffel Tower...failing miserably, but tried nonetheless.
  • Sat outside at cafes to people watch and read my new Chuck Klosterman book.
  • Be able to stay in and not say "Oh man, I'm in Paris. I need to go out every night." The fact was that I lived there and there was no rush.
  • Take naps daily.
  • Went to Easter Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral.
  • Eat a bunch of cheese.
  • Read all the notes in Shakespeare & Company.

That's some of the things I did...probably a bunch I'm missing. The reality is I have to go back to Paris in about a month to pick up the repaired MacBook Air, but it definitely won't be the same. I am so thankful to have made so many friends during this trip, revisit friendships and have solid conversations.

I got what I want, which was just to be a Parisian for a while. It was so pleasant to sit at a cafe, ask for the WIFI (pronounced "wee fee") an forget where I was. I've really discovered my home. No, it's not Seattle, Washington. Home is where I am at with my friends, whether they were people I was Skyping with in San Francisco or physically with me. Location is overrated and people use it as an excuse.

Tomorrow I'm getting on the plane and going to Barcelona, Spain. In my continual quest to simplify, I am sending back a box of gifts and other items I don't need to try to lighten up my backpack. Yes, I only packed one backpack and still am wearing ONE pair of shoes. Count them ladies, one pair of shoes for an indefinite trip.

How long am I going for? As always, the answer is...

I don't know.

My traveling theme song is "Voyager" by Daft Punk, who are from Paris. Here's another remix of this amazing song/lifestyle.


Things I love about Paris

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Crazy to think I've been in Paris for about ten days now. I love how the people are getting familiar, I know where I'm going ad it just feels like a temporary residence. Those who know me know that I love lists. Here are a list of things I love about Paris so far:

  • People walk everywhere. No wonder people are so fit here. Part of it is probably because of all the people who live here and traffic is terrible, but it's such a norm to walk everywhere here. Definitely does not remind me of Seattle, where you have to take seventeen buses to get to another neighborhood.
  • The girls are so simple here. Everywhere we go, there are pretty girls everywhere. However, it's a simplistic pretty. They are so stylish here, but it's not overtly extravagant and they don't wear much makeup here.
  • Emotions are reserved for authenticity. People don't smile here often, but when they do, it feels very synthetic. It's not that they're not happy here, but a smile, a touch, and dare I say...a hug is reserved for when they want to express emotions deeply.
  • People love to read. When we were strolling Luxembourg park, I couldn't tell you how many people I saw, quietly reading a nice book. They were there for hours as well.
  • The buildings are beautiful. Even a bad building seems good here. Perhaps it is because of the age of the city of lights but it seems as if every building has a story, a purpose, and a new purpose.
  • People are very much in love here. As cliche as it sounds, it is so true. Young and old alike, couples here seem to be constantly holding hands, sitting along the Seine and having conversations. It amazing how a gesture of a woman putting her head on a man's shoulders can express so much love.

There's definitely a theme here: simplicity. How does a city so large have such a simple lifestyle? People here have all the time in the world, it seems like.


A lock of love: my Parisian promise to my future wife

People might think I am completely insane after reading this blog post, but it doesn't matter. This is how I think and feel. What can I say...I'm a hopeless romantic who still believes in analog love.

The other day my friend Adam and I were cowering outside along the Seine River. As the shade started moving we migrated to the other side of the river. As we crossed the Pont de l’Archevêché I saw a bunch of locks on the bridge's railing. At first I thought they were locks newly weds put there, but my friends Amy and Vivian later told me that visitors put the lock there as a sign, promising the city of Paris that they will one day return.

I thought it was a wonderful idea. It made me ponder about when these people will return to fulfill their promise. Never? Next year? Next week? I loved the idea and wanted to do the same thing. Obviously, I'm not married, but I still wanted to do it. I walked down to the nearby shopping center at my apartment and bought a lock.

On the lock I wrote "April 21, 2011: David Hoang + _____________." I left a little note for her (whoever she is) on the back...

On the 13th panel on the North side of Pont de l'Archevêché, you'll find my lock.

I'm not going to dictate things in my life that I cannot control, but if I ever fall in love and get married, I will give her the key to my lock and we will return to Paris to bring it back. If I do get married someday, I want to give her the key, take her to Paris so we can retrieve the lock which contains my heart. I put the key around my necklace and will now wear it with me, wherever I go in the world.

My good friend once described me to someone: "David is madly in love...even when there isn't someone in his life." For the longest time I didn't know what that meant, but after spending time in Paris, I'm starting to understand. I am in love, but I don't know who she is. I'm in love with the idea that she is out there somewhere and one day our lives will converge.

I can't help myself. I am a hopeless romantic who is hopeful. I'm probably the only person in this world who still believes in faith, hope + love (charity).

I hope one day I find you. When I do, we will go to Paris, the city in the bubble...La Ville-Lumière.

 


First five days in Paris

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Hello from Paris, France! I've finally settled into my new temporary home after an adventurous and epic trip to Croatia and Bosnia. I live in the 4th arrondissement, which is actually known as the gay district, but you know there's good food, shopping and it'll be clean! It's in the northern part of Paris and is literally a five-minute walk from Notre Dame Cathedral. Here are some quick thoughts about Paris thus far:

Parisians are very nice
I don't know why people say the French are stand-offish but they are quite nice. Then again, I think New Yorkers are nice. I think people in the United States are used to small talk, so when a Parisian server is short and to the point, people think it's rude. Even though my French isn't that great, I try to converse in their language, which they appreciate. I tried ordering a baguette the first day and seemed to only get half a loaf. Shawna told me that I ordered half a loaf. Whoops!

Bonne Vie (Good life)
The lifestyle here seems so simple for such a large city. Maybe it's just from what I've seen, but people seem so joyful here. I could sit for hours watching people walk around the city eating baguettes, riding their bikes or sitting and having conversations. I am still working full time over here, but I don't feel like I'm ever in a rush. Perhaps the 9-hour time difference helps, but I am very much at peace here.

Few things I've done

  • Ordered a full baguette (winning)
  • Went out to a bar with Adam and ordered drinks in French
  • Visited Notre Dame Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle
  • Had Crepes Suzette per Shawna's recommendation
  • Living my life normally as I would in Seattle

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The streets are so beautiful to walk around. Everyone j-walks and people run red lights, but it's okay. The city has such a unique energy to it. It's not as fast-paced as New York City...almost as if everyone has time for everything here.

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Yes, I stopped by the Apple Store. Don't tell me you are surprised.

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Revisiting Sainte-Chapelle, one of my most favorite gothic structures ever.

It has been an amazing journey so far and it is amazing to me that it's only the beginning. I've definitely learned to live a simpler life. Hope you all are doing well. I'll post updates whenever I can.

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