How to prepare for a fully focused day

A reminder for my ADD self.

The night before

Get rid of small distractions. Spend at least an hour the night before mentally reviewing things that you urgently need to catch up on.

Anything that you don’t think of during your review time is not urgent and does not need to be completed during your focus day. Tomorrow is not the day to organize your garage. Not even the dishes in the sink deserve your attention. As long as things are functional, mess doesn’t matter.

Warn your teammates that you’ll be busy. Turn your autoresponder on if necessary. I’ve started setting my status on slack to let my teammates know I’m working on something. That way I don’t feel guilty about ignoring them, and they know to call me if it’s urgent. Sometimes teammates don’t get it. You might need to explain to them that your work requires deep focus and you are easily distracted. They still might not get it.

If your work involves components or tools, lay them out neatly the night before. Make sure they are all working. If you don’t know how to use a tool/hardware, be sure to schedule time during your focus day for learning how to use that tool. You might need to reschedule your focus day for after you learn since it’s hard to estimate how long it will take you to learn.

If it involves software or a website, close everything on your computer except for that software or website. I use pocket to save things I want to read in the future and then I read them in lines or on a plane during takeoff. If you’re worried about closing a tab because it’s something you need to work on in the future, add the link to your to-do list for the future.

Break down your project into smaller tasks. Read “Getting things done” if you need a primer on how to do this. My rule of thumb is two big tasks (tasks that will take more than an hour) and 5 small tasks (task that will take less than 30 minutes) per day. Things always take longer than I expect them to take.

If your list is on a computer, transfer it to paper and draw out the blocks of time.

Visualize completing every task on your list without distractions, and how you will feel when you complete them.

Lay your workout clothes out the night before.

The day of

In the morning, as soon as you wake up, get out of bed. Don’t let yourself sleep for five more minutes. This will help you to feel less shitty about yourself. Exercise first thing in the morning. I like to go for a run. Make yourself a breakfast that’s full of protein.

Meditate for 5 minutes. Really clear your mind. Repeat every four hours or as needed.

Put your phone inside a bag inside a closet and close the door. Even the presence of a phone can be distracting.

If you need your phone to take photos or video of your project, set it to airplane mode. If you need your phone for music...put on a record (you hipster!) or play music from your computer instead.

Unless you really hate the playlist, don’t keep changing the music. You’re not practicing for your DJ career.

Resist the temptation to turn on a podcast. Podcasts are great for mindless work, but can be distracting. Turn on your favorite focus playlist instead.

Do the hardest thing on your task list first. This should also be the first thing on your list.

It’s ok to feel distracted. Just like in meditation, sometimes you’ll get distracted from the task on hand. You might open gmail in a tab, or even facebook. If you do, simply remember why you’re working on what you’re working on and begin again.

Sometimes you might have a disaster during the focus day.

Your sailboat might suddenly drift off its anchor and crash into your neighbor’s dock. Your chickens might escape and destroy the neighbor’s landscaping. Your washing machine might overflow and flood the basement. Simply get back to what you were doing as soon as the crisis is taken care of, and immediately plan another focus day to finish what you weren’t able to finish.

Stop at a reasonable hour. My maximum focus time is about 10 hours a day. I can pull super human feats of all-night focus when I’m stressed, but that destroys my focus for the rest of the week.

Do a focus day on average at least one day a week. Focus takes practice.

Stop making excuses about why your time isn’t valuable.

Stop making excuses about why you need to always be on call for other people. Your time is better spent focusing. You’re available four other days of the week, and they can reach you another day.

Your focus time is most important, and you deserve to live the life that you want to live, and create the things that you want to create. Nobody else can take that away from you, because you aren’t going to let them.

Life on Hard Mode vs Life on Easy Mode

I had an epiphany this afternoon while I was out on a run.

On my usual route there’s a portion where I can see ahead of me for over a mile, and there’s a large hill at the end of that mile stretch. I dread it. As soon as I realize that it’s coming I slow down. Today as soon as I saw it I slowed to a walk.

“Maybe I’ll just walk the rest of the way,” I thought. My brain was telling me that I was a quitter. The anxiety crept in like static and filled my brain with negative thoughts. If I couldn’t even finish my run, how could I finish the five quadrillion things currently on my to do list?

I noticed my thoughts and I stopped myself. What if, instead of thinking about this mile of road and that hill a mile away, I focused on right now instead? I started to jog again, slowly.

What if instead of worrying about how tired I’ll be going up that hill if I run fast, I run as fast as is enjoyable for me right now? I sped up.

“This is going to hurt going up that hill,” my brain said.

“How do you know that...” I asked myself “...when you’re not even there yet?”

And just like that, I took off at an enjoyably quick pace, keeping it up until I was over the hill, focusing on every single second and every individual breath. Whenever I thought about what I was doing, I started to slow down. But whenever I was in the moment, enjoying the movement of running, I sped up again.

And the epiphany hit me - If I turned off thinking about the future, it made things easier. I’d found the mental switch for Easy Mode. Before, I’d been running on Hard Mode.

To prove it, here are my splits:

Miles one and two felt hard even though I was jogging slowly because I was running on hard mode. Mile three felt impossible because I saw the big hill in front of me and my brain told me that it would be difficult and I should just give up.

The last mile and a half felt easier than the rest of the run, even though I was running over 2 minutes per mile faster than I had been running, because mentally I was on easy mode.

It’s all in my head.

I’ve been living my life on hard mode. I spend more time worrying about what I’m going to do than actually doing it. This makes things much more difficult, because I expect things to be difficult, and also because I waste my mental power worrying.

When I was in college I had to finish a screenplay that was going to be voted on as our classes’ senior film project. I was so anxious I couldn’t even start the project and I procrastinated until the last minute. I was nervous about having my classmates read my writing, and I thought it would be easier not to even submit a screenplay than to face the embarrassment of having my creative baby criticized by my entire class. Also, the length of the screenplay scared me. When would I have time to write a screenplay for a twenty minute film? Needless to say, I spent a lot of time thinking about the screenplay and not writing it.

At the time I had also broken my wrist, and I had a Percocet prescription for the pain. I took a Percocet and sat down to write. Suddenly the gate of anxiety dropped, and the words flowed out onto the page. I wrote the entire screenplay in one night, just in time to submit it for voting. To my shock, my screenplay got the most votes, and I also won a grant from Gerald Abrams (that reminds me that I still need to write him a thank you note).

I don’t advocate taking pain meds for clarity, but I think that what happened was that the Percocet made my brain so foggy that I couldn’t focus on anything except for the moment, and in the moment I forgot that writing the screenplay was too hard for me (obviously, it wasn’t). My takeaway is that the overall effect of anxiety makes me even stupider than the overall effect of Percocet.

Even though I was able to turn on the Easy Mode switch during my run today, I know it will take a lot of brain retraining to be able to live my life in Easy Mode. I’ll need to be mindful enough to notice when my brain is slipping back into Hard Mode.

I’ll also have to enjoy what I’m working on, and notice when and why I’m not enjoying it.

Keeping a comprehensive to-do list is important, because as long as I have my future tasks on the list I can forget about them and immerse myself in my current task.

Finally, making a project management schedule, not just for my work, but for my life, can keep me from getting too anxious about things. I’ll be able to complete things one small task at a time. It will also help me to get better at planning how long it will realistically take me to do something, so that I can prioritize things better.

Ok, I’m off to go live my life on Easy Mode.

The casualties of my happiness

I found and translated this writing by Fernando Araújo Vélez shortly after my dad died, when I was struggling to find a way to happiness. I felt lonely when I saw the happiness of others. I was the casualty of their happiness. The title, "Los muertos de mi felicidad," comes from a song by Silvio Rodriguez that I really love. 

Happiness is not an obligation, but a decision. And happiness is not one decision, but thousands, millions, and with every second that passes it can be different. And the best happiness might last for less than a second.

Sometimes it’s calm, and other times, strong, and on occasion, happy, and others, serene, silent, and even vengeful. Because there are happinesses in revenge, and some vengeances that hurt and other vengeances that relieve hurt, and the pain and the relief and the wounds can all be forms of happiness.

Happiness transcends its meaning in the dictionary, and between its nine letters dance the remains of joy and euphoria, of shouts, of surprise or of contemplation, or even of rage. There are happy rages.

You can be happy with a rubber ball or a wildflower, but there are those who want to make us believe that you’re only happy with a brand new truck or an Armani suit. Cheating can be happiness, and cheating oneself, a false happiness. You should always remember the saying of the tormented philosopher*, “For a long time I have ceased to strive for happiness; I aspire to my work!” The work is a seal, a bond, a confession, an explanation and a saving grace. An unfinished work can be a complete daily happiness and the motivation that we need to get up.

Getting up ends up being an eternal wandering if we don’t have a motivation. Being happy can be the consequence of ignorance, and this ignorant happiness has, for hundreds of thousands of years, worked to further the rulers of the earth. Before, it was bread and circuses. Now, it’s football, princesses, and patriotism.

It’s impossible to determine the line that separates the happy from the crazy and from the sane, and this impossibility lets these same rulers of the earth follow the lines to send inconvenient people to the psychiatrist, backed up by studies with improbable results. Because craziness can lead to happiness, and happiness to craziness. Because it’s also impossible to trace the lines between good and evil, bitterness and happiness. The same people as always want to benefit themselves by tracing for us their own lines along their own interests. They give us first place among the happiest countries in the world, so that we’ll buy and never stop buying, and so be happier. Good needs evil and happiness needs bitterness to exist, because one is the measure of the other.

Because happiness is not a gift that arrives falling from the sky, but rather an eternal search, and in this search are pieces of happiness. Because without barriers and sludge and storms there would only be monotony, and because you have to count the dead that these storms leave behind as they continue their path. Because the path is made with our steps. “The path is made by walking,” as the poet says, and the poet is an unending succession of steps and paths. Because our only map is the struggle, and that is our only triumph, because our triumph is the sum of our little triumphs.

Because of all this, and many more things, tonight I went to bed singing an old song by the consecrated poet* that I have only begun to understand, “I’m happy, I’m a happy man, and I hope for today that they pardon me the casualties of my happiness.”

*The tormented philosopher is Tolstoy

*The consecrated poet is Silvio Rodriguez

Is comedy pathology?

My mom gave me this criticism today “you sometimes come off as a fly-by-night.” What is a fly by night?

From wiktionary: “One who departs or flees at night in order to avoid creditors, law enforcement etc. (often used attributively).”

I think by fly-by-night she was implying that I am a flake, and not serious.

I feel that. I know that it’s true. Sometimes I’m late to events, or I miss them completely. I used to do this because something more interesting came up. Nowadays I typically do this because I’m having a tough day and I don’t really want to be around people. I tend not to RSVP to things if I know I would prefer to spend that time alone.
That is known as JOMO - the Joy Of Missing Out. 

I think the main reason people think that I’m not a serious person, however, is my need to turn everything into a joke.

To laugh or not to laugh.
The day I arrived home after my Dad died, I got in trouble for making jokes in the house. Mom said severely, “now is not the time for that.” 

Ruby Namdar, the author of “The Ruined house” said that he thinks the need to be funny is evidence of pathology. He speculates that European Jews and Jewish-American people became comedians as a way to cowtow to their masters, or a defense mechanism to ward off the aggression and hostility of others. Freud says the same thing - laughter is a form of sublimate aggression that lets victims of persecution safely cope with their condition.

When I’m angry, or in pain, I would prefer to laugh. When I shattered my wrist going over a jump and had to get a metal plate put in my arm, I started laughing hysterically and couldn’t stop for an hour. I barely remember the pain, but I remember how good it felt to laugh. I think laughter is a strength. 

There have been studies that show that we retain information better when we are laughing ( Laughter dulls pain, and is, of course, the best medicine. Laughter can make an unbearable situation bearable, like when we make jokes about politicians.

But are there times when laughter isn’t appropriate? 
I think the only time that laughter is inappropriate is when it is used as a way to feel better, when the correct response would be to fight the injustice. 

I have to admit that hopelessness is a big part of why I laugh. People who believe that change is possible don’t laugh, they get to work. At a conference recently, they only gave out men’s shirts. My response was to make a joke about how the shirts fit. Another woman’s response was to demand that the conference do better next time. A tiny thing like a shirt’s fit can make you feel welcome or unwelcome. But I am worried that people will see me as nitpicky if I say something. Or they will see me as unappreciative, or as a bitch. It’s happened in the past. In fact, I probably see myself that way.
My response is hopeless laughter. I swallow my anger with laughter. Her response is hopeful seriousness. 

I also make jokes so that if I say something that gets me in trouble, I will be able to return to it and say “I was only joking.” 

I often say things that I’m actually angry about as a joke.
“I’m going to slip laxatives in her oatmeal,” I say about a friend who hurt my feelings. And if people show disapproval, I say “I was only joking.” It’s a way of testing the waters - of seeing where public opinion lies before you leap in with your beliefs or opinions. It’s the refuge of someone who grew up never quite sure if what she was about to say would make people burn her as a witch.
You hear little kids doing this. They’ll say something innocent, like “does god have a penis?” and their parents, fearing cultural or religious norms, will reprimand them for it. “I was only joking,” the child will say.

Self deprecation works the same way. I make fun of myself first because I expect somebody else to make fun of me, and I want to beat them to it to avoid getting my feelings hurt or losing face.

Laughter, at least for me, is a reaction to hopelessness, anger, and fear.

So, is laughter pathological? 

No, I think laughter can be the most healthy reactions to these emotions. Making a joke makes me feel better like nothing else. And I know that I need to learn to find hope to fight, but laughter is so much easier when I don't have the energy to fight, and frankly, most of the time I don't, but I still deserve to survive.

The only thing that bothers me is that some people will always perceive me as someone who isn't serious. Because I like to turn everything into a joke, some people will always see me as a fly-by-night, as my Mom calls it. But fuck 'em. 

Body metrics and the Standard process diet

Writing about a diet seems like a basic bitch thing to do, so I'm doing it.

What is the Standard Process Diet?

The Standard Process diet is part cleanse, part elimination diet. For a month, you take a ton of pills containing mysterious herbs that make you poo weird, and you also drink twice daily shakes and eat whole foods. You stay away from legumes, nuts, grains, refined foods and sugars and caffeine.

The cleanse is 21 days. Once it's done, a healthy habit has been formed that usually lasts for months.

I first learned about the diet from my vegan ex, who had done it when converting to veganism. We did it under the guidance of a nutritionist, and I watched in amazement as over the course of a month, his eyes turned from brown to green. I'm not sure why that happened - perhaps the increased chlorophyll intake? 

I try to do the diet once a year. Over the year I get addicted to sugar, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine. I do the diet as a reset. After day 11, I find that I sleep better and feel that pure energy that I used to have as a kid. Sometimes I can even keep up the healthy living for a few months after the cleanse.

The Biometrics

This time around, I'm going to be starting with some biometrics. I took a ubiome sample a week ago, so I'll be looking at my microbiome before and after the cleanse. 

I'll also be getting a Dexa scan on Wednesday to check out my body composition, and follow up with another one after the cleanse.

Finally, I'll be tracking my weight and sleep daily with the Withings scale and sleep tracker, and tracking my exercise with Runkeeper, and my mood with iMoodJournal. Richerd, who has a totally different body type than I do, will also be tracking his biometrics as we do the cleanse together.

I have no idea what I'll learn from this, if anything. Honestly, I think that most people who are really into biometrics and "body hacking" are wankers who have too much time on their hands and severe OCD. I guess I'm joining the wanker club...

The Recipes

There are a ton of websites with recipes. I'm copying most of what this blogger made for her cleanse. I made the avocado chutney today and it was delicious.



Other Habits

I'm taking the next 21 days to work on building a few other habits that I hope to keep up:

  • Run before work 
  • Morning sun salutation
  • Play violin at night (it helps me sleep better)
  • Write at night 
  • Publish something every day, either here or on Hackster

How to sail to Toorcamp in 2020

First, get a sailboat. 

raising the main sail

You can buy a working 25ft-29ft sailboat on Craigslist for under $10,000. I wouldn't go much lower, however, unless you love spending all your free time fixing boats. You can also rent a boat on Boatsetter for about $300 per day. 

Next, get a crew. Sailing experience is good, but more importantly, look for people who are helpful and on top of things and also fun to be around. 

Buy your tickets to Toorcamp 2020. 

Monica relaxing on the boat in a butterfly costume

Packing list for the boat (for Toorcamp, see Fbz packing list on Twitter):


  • Warm layers (long underwear, sweatshirt, warm coat)
  • Waterproof layers (raincoat or poncho, waterproof pants and hat if you have them)
  • Warm socks
  • Waterproof shoes or boots if you have them 
  • Sunglasses
  • Bathing suit (water is cold, but it's exhilarating to jump in!)
  • Gloves
  • Warm hat
  • Neck warmer (it could be warm or it could be REALLY cold and wet)
  • light-weight long sleeved shirt for sun protection
  • shorts and short-sleeved clothes for hot weather
  • Hat for sun


  • Headlamp
  • Charging blocks for your phone (solar chargers work well)
  • Power inverter if your boat has a motor
  • Seasickness medication if you're prone to seasickness (I've heard scopalamine patches work well)
  • towels
  • linens/sleeping bag
  • pillows
  • Ear plugs 
  • eye mask
  • Sunscreen
  • Waterbottle
  • OpenROV for spying on sea life
  • kayaks and/or dinghy (I'm glad I brought both so that me and my crew were able to get to and from the boat as we pleased. Next time I'm bringing two kayaks and a motor for the dinghy)
  • leatherman

Safety equipment

* required by law

  • VHF*
  • Flares*
  • Portable floatation devices (PFDs) for everyone on board*
  • Knife, light, and whistle to tie to PFDs
  • 1 PFD type IV (throwable ring or buoy)* (I recommend the lifesling
  • Horn, whistle, or bell*
  • navigation lights*
  • HAM radio
  • Radar reflector (or radar)
  • Epirb

Know before you go:

nautical charts app screenshot

Be sure to get the nautical charts for Puget Sound (charts 18440) and the San Juans (charts 18421).

Get your Washington Boaters card (required if you're operating a boat of 15 horsepower of more in Washington)

Check the Washington marine report to see if there's a small craft advisory in place for any areas where you will be sailing. If there is, I would advise against sailing that day unless you have an experienced crew. 

Know how to tie a bowline (useful for tieing things that will have strain on them

Things to keep in mind:

The water temperatures average 47 degrees in June. If you fall overboard, the shock from the cold water can immobilize you within minutes, so while you could hypothetically survive for an hour before succumbing to hypothermia, drowning due to cold water shock is the real killer. Wear a life jacket. 

Do a practice man overboard drill with a floating item (if you see trash floating on the water you can do a good deed and get your man overboard practice).

Check the weather report each day that you're sailing for each part of the trip that you'll be doing. Wind and waves can vary greatly in different parts of the Sound. 

If you're thinking about reefing the sail, you should already have reefed it. 

relaxing with full sails

Download the following apps:

Windy (thanks to Scotland for introducing me to this fantastic app!)

Boating US&Canada ($14.99)

Anchor watch

Knots3D (great for practicing knots)

safely moored in Doe Bay

How long will it take?

Can you sail from Seattle in Toorcamp in one day? The distance from Seattle to Doe Bay on Orcas Island is about 70 nautical miles. 

Warning: math ahead

A boat's speed is limited by a simple equation, known as "Hull speed." As a boat moves, it creates a wave in front of it. Once the wave in front of the boat is longer than the boat itself, it requires exponentially more power to make the boat move faster. 

Hull speed is the speed at which the wavelength of boat's bow wave (the wave that forms at the front of the boat as you displace water) is equal to its length. Hull speed (in knots, or nautical miles) equals 1.34 times the square root of the waterline length in feet (HS = 1.34 * √LWL). I have a 29-foot boat with a waterline length of 22 feet, so its hull speed works out to about 6.2 knots (HS = 1.34 * 4.69).  

That means I rarely travel much above 6.2 knots, unless I have a current pushing me. If I were to have good winds and time the currents correctly, theoretically I could travel at 7 knots for 10 hours and arrive in one long, sunburnt day. 

There are only two mooring balls available in Doe Bay itself, but it's also possible to anchor out

Alright, hopefully that was educational! See you in two years! 

Clothing received!

boxes of clothing

Last week, two giant boxes showed up

on my doorstep near Seattle, Washington. They were bursting with clothing.

Not only were there bomber jackets - there were about 200 neckties and bow ties that Alexander had squeezed in. 

colorful ties

Considering that each piece is hand cut and hand sewn, the quality of the garments is incredible. I went over each piece with a lint roller to take of the spare threads, but other than that, I was happy with the quality. Each button was covered with fabric, providing a soft surface. The metal tags gave everything a touch of luxury, as I had hoped.

jackets on coatrack

The one thing that I noticed that needed to be fixed was the button holes. I called Alexander and asked if he owned a buttonholer. He told me he didn't. Thankfully, I have one, and I had just ordered a ton of thread in every color of the rainbow (impulse purchase on Amazon). I'm going to devote this weekend to sewing a perfect button hole on each jacket that needs one.  


Note: this part is a series about my experiences starting a fashion import business. Want buy some gorgeous African clothing (and at the same time, help save Rwanda's national parks?) The store is online at

You can help by following us on instagramtwitter, and all other social media as @umudozi. 

I travelled to Rwanda...and started a business?!?

Travelling to Rwanda was mostly my Mom's idea. My brother has been living there since last summer, so I agreed to take her for a trip there to visit him this February. 

My brother, by the way, has a blog about his time there over at

Micah has made a lot of friends there through his work and his church (and also just because he's just a super nice guy, not a misanthropist like myself), and he introduced us to his host family and his neighbors. Rwandans LOVE making speeches. If you go to a Rwandan dinner, be prepared to listen to a lot of speeches. It's probably much healthier than what we do in the U.S. - wait until somebody dies until we say nice things about them. 

View of Kigali


The weather, also, is perfect. We stayed in a guest house in Kigali, and every morning we were woken up by the birds singing to the sunrise. There are so many birds! 

Micah's neighbor's brother was getting married, and we were invited to the wedding. I was psyched, but I hadn't brought appropriate clothes for a wedding. That meant that we had to take a trip to the market so that I could get a beautifully tailored outfit in colorful kitenge cloth.

We ended up going to 2 of Kigali's biggest markets and spending most of the day shopping.

Kimironko Market is an indoor market with so many stalls and things for sale and people trying to sell me things. It was overwhelming. The colors and patterns of the many fabrics were dizzying. 

I expressed interest in buying a jacket, and was immediately flocked by vendors of all ages. They handed me binders with laminated photos of different styled clothes to leaf through. In the back, smiling calmly, was a young man wearing a colorful hat and shorts. He held up a long jacket on a pole. "Do you like this?" He asked. "Ooh, yes!" 

"Try it on," he said. I tried it on and immediately wanted it. It fit perfectly. "I can make you a jacket like this if you pick out the fabric, but you can't have this one. This is my floor model." 

"How much is this one?" I asked. We went back and forth. I ended up buying two jackets from him, including the floor model. He measured me for the second jacket, and agreed to deliver it to the guest house where I was staying if I sent him the address on instagram. 

Later that evening I remembered to send Alexander my address via instagram. I leafed through his photos. Each one had a photo of a different customer and their outfit. The outfits were unique. They were fresh, fun. 

Alexander came to my house two days later to deliver my blazer. It had shoulder pads, pockets that actually worked, and the fabric that I had picked out was stunning. The placement of the design on the sleeves and pockets was perfection. 

Me and Alexander

He sat and we chatted for a bit (in Rwanda, it's traditional to offer guests a drink before doing anything else). He told me about his stall in the market, how he wanted to study business, and how he had gone to the Peace Corps' camp for gifted boys. I asked if he was exporting his clothes anywhere. He said that one of his friend’s moms, who lives in Tennessee, had bought some things to sell and was sending him the proceeds. 

I asked him if he’d be interested in starting a business with me. I only had a few days left for my visit, but we agreed to meet on Sunday. I traveled on the back of a moto by myself across the city to meet him at the coffee shop. We drank iced coffee and picked at some french fries, and he showed me his best samples. I told him what I wanted, and he told me that he would sew it for me that night.

My plane was leaving at 6pm the next day. Mom was getting anxious, but Alexander pulled up at 3pm, as promised. His bag was stuffed and he was bleary eyed with exhaustion. He’d stayed up the entire night sewing, and his creations were incredible: five bombers with patterns and contrasting pockets; hats of all colors. He even threw in some items for free, and told me to just send me the money once I’d sold them. I hugged him and told him I’d be placing an order for more soon, and we left for the airport. 

I felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. I’ve never worked in fashion. However, my guy told me that these items would practically sell themselves. They were beautiful and unique, the creations of an artist. 


Note: this part is a series about my experiences starting a fashion import business. Want buy some gorgeous African clothing (and at the same time, support the dreams of Alexander Nshimiyimana, my business partner in Rwanda?) The store is online at

You can help by following us on instagram, twitter, and all other social media as @umudozi. 

Obsessed with clothing tags

Fronts and backs of two different clothing tags

For the past couple weeks, I have been obsessed with tags. What makes a great clothing tag? Do tags even matter? And what's the difference between a tag and a label?

Did you know that to sell clothing in the United States, you legally must provide care instructions on a tag? Most tags have the size and the place of manufacture as well.

tag with a picture of a boat

I did come up with a few principles for what makes a great tag. 

1. tags should be unobtrusive and comfortable. 

2. tags should be well made and well sewn.

Many of my clothes have tags that are already fraying. On printed tags (as opposed to sewn tags) the care instructions quickly fade. Even a vintage Saks 5th avenue dress that probably cost a small fortune in the 1950s had the tag sewn on crooked. 

Third, the tag must delight. With that in mind, I turned to illustrator to design the perfect tag, and finally, I hunted down some quality tag makers on Alibaba.

The first tag was the metal tag for the blazer sleeve. This is more branding than anything else, and I wanted a more expensive, metal tag to class it up:

Umudozi tag drafts

After surfing for hours looking for ways to make tags more fun, I decided to include a Rwandan phrase on the inside tag.

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 22.51.06.png

Me and the tag maker, Shenzhen Xinbaoyuan Weaving Co, went back and forth about styles. He said I should do a center fold tag, but I wanted a tag that would lie flat and not bother the person wearing the jacket. That's apparently called a "straight cut" tag. 

Also, my smallest font was too small for their embroidery machine, so I had to make the tags a little bit bigger. 

Unfortunately, something went wrong with the first print of our Umudozi tag:

Umudozi failed test

Thankfully, I caught it, and Shenzhen Xinbaoyuan Weaving Co. corrected it. However, the tags I was sent were very thin, and I will be ordering from someone else for my next batch. I should have taken the faulty initial run as a warning. 

In the end, 500 cloth tags and 500 metal tags were shipped to Rwanda and placed in the clothing.

I still have to make the hanging price tags for the clothing. I'm going to go with something ecofriendly, since these get tossed after you buy the jackets. I think I'll make them from recyclable material.

Note: this part is a series about my experiences starting a fashion import business. Want buy some gorgeous African clothing (and at the same time, support workers in Rwanda?) The store is online at

You can help by following us on instagram, twitter, and all other social media as @umudozi. 


Fire poofer weekend

I've been interested in fire my whole life, but only started working with it as an artistic medium in the past year. Let's be real though - when I say artistic medium, I basically only mean that I make things that take me a while to build and I have some degree of control over how much and when the fire comes out. 


Last summer I got to work on some of the electronics for Martin Montesano (AKA Moltensteelman)'s piece for burning man - The Three Wishes. 



Code for the project is here:

One of the most satisfying feelings in the world is pushing a button and watching fire poof out.


In April this year I attended the Flame Effects for the Artist workshop in Garberville, CA, put on by PooferSupply. Not only did we build our own poofer over the weekend, we also learned lots of useful information about safety and how to work with authorities. Eric, aka Propaniac, who runs the workshop, is not only a volunteer firefighter, he's also worked in the LP Gas Industry for over 30 years and is involved in writing their regulations.


And now, finally, I've started creating my own flame effects from the plumbing to the code. I hope to share more posts about this as I learn, and hopefully share a project or two on Hackster. For now, I leave you with this video:

Huge thanks to Paul Stoffregen, Moopi and Moltensteelman, who initiated me into the cult of the poofer.


Living in the suburbs, you have to strike a fine balancing act with your neighbors.
You want to be close enough to them that if your house is burning down they’ll come help you. At the same time, you have to keep enough distance that they won’t stage an intervention when you wake up at noon and wear the same stained sweatpants five days in a row.
I’m new to the suburbs, so my neighbors still treat me with friendly caution. I have a butch haircut, but I wear mermaid leggings and dresses while I’m gardening, so I'm pretty sure they don’t know what to make of me yet.

Today, my neighbor and I had a fake argument about whose job it was to cut the ivy growing between our homes. I said the roots were on my side of the fence, so it was my job, and he said the roots were on his side, so it was his job. In the end, he ceded and I continued with my task. 

English Ivy is a terrible invasive species. It crawls up trees and sucks the lifeblood out of them. It crawls everywhere. To kill it, you have to burn it, like a zombie corpse. Otherwise the clippings grow roots and come back to life again. 
Ivy is now my arch enemy. I enjoy hacking at it. I love mutilating living creatures that can’t run away or resist. 
That’s why I’m a vegetarian. 

Not that I have any beef with people who eat meat. In fact, I respect people who shoot their own food, like Mark Zuckerberg. What do you think Mark Zuckerberg wears when he goes hunting? Do you think he has a camo sweatshirt and little camo flip flops?


I missed out on The Boring Company's flamethrower sale,  but thankfully you can buy a weed torch (basically a mini-flamethrower) for under $50, which is way more affordable and apparently just as much fire. I think this is going to be my ivy destroying method.