Photos from Xinjiang: Urumqi & Karamay City

I just returned from a week in China’s Northwestern Xinjiang province, which borders Pakistan and Kazakhstan. There is a world of difference between Xinjiang and the rest of China: aside from being home to the majority of China’s Muslim population, it’s a desert oil-producing region made famous by violent protests in 2009.

Thousands were killed in May of that year when a failed uprising attempted to create a new country out of the region, called East Turkmenistan. Since then Xinjiang has become an oppressive police state as China struggles to stabilize the region and its marginalized Muslim population. It is a fascinating but tense place to visit.

Below are a handful of photos from my trip. The entire set of photos is available here, and there’s another link to this page at the bottom of the photos.

Xinjiang (43 of 126)

Xinjiang (49 of 126)

Xinjiang (68 of 126)

Xinjiang (100 of 126)

Xinjiang (121 of 126)

Xinjiang (53 of 126)

More Photos from Xinjiang
Published on February 27, 2015

Performance Videos with PLGRM

A few years ago I befriended an American visual artist named Greg, from Boston. We did some shows together, but last year we begun stepping it up when he returned to China with his friend Seth. Together, they are PLGRM.

Below are a few brief videos from shows we’ve done recently, starting from late 2014 with the most recent video being from this event at NASA one month ago.

I’m a huge fan of their work and to do shows with them adds an entirely new dimension to live performances. They joined Jovian and I in Disco Death recently, which we’re very excited about. Our next event is Friday the 13th, next month.

Bassball @ Here We Go

Thuggin’ @ NASA

All In One Festival

Published on February 27, 2015

Inside the Poly Center Elevator

Over the last 6 months Chengdu’s most popular nightlife destination has become a single building in the South of the city, near the US Consulate. It’s called the Poly Center, and was originally developed as a high-end residential and commercial building in a lucrative and prosperous part of the city.

Since it opened last year though, it has become dominated by a single type of business: bars and clubs. On some floors there are half a dozen bars and clubs next to each other which makes jumping between venues easier than I’ve ever seen it, anywhere. It’s amazing how hands-off Chengdu is. This would certainly not be allowed to happen in Beijing or Shanghai. When visitors come from out of town to Chengdu I always take them here, and they always think it’s amazing. Because it is.

It’s like a multi-million dollar property development that once launched has gone completely hands off. This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve seen something like this in China, but it might be the first time I’ve seen it to this degree. Step inside the elevators at the Poly Center and this is what you see.

Chengdu Poly Center Chengdu Poly Center Chengdu Poly Center

Here’s what two of the most popular venues inside the Poly Center look like: NASA & Here We Go.

Published on February 25, 2015

Book Review #23: Make Your Mark

Make Your MarkMake Your Mark is a collection of anecdotes and stories from the minds behind innovative startups like Google X, Facebook, Warby Parker and more. In the words of its author Jocelyn Glei, Editor-in-Chief of design blog 99U: this book is made for makers, not managers.

Unlike traditional measures of success— like money, titles, or status—the creative mind is driven by a desire to see creativity come to life. Success is making an impact in what matters most to you. To make an impact with creativity, you must love what you do.

As a corollary to this observation, the best businesses are not profit-driven, but are those that strive to solve real problems and meet actual needs. They focus on creating value, and let everything else follow.

More than anything, this book will motivate you to create. It doesn’t tell you what to do as much as it tells you why to do it. It’s inspiring and provokes action.

Common Themes of Success

Each of the stories and contributors have different experiences and stories, but they piece together to form different facets of the same sort of creative triumph. The 21 essays that the book is made up of are like chapters, but since there isn’t a linear narrative, it reads like a collection of short stories where mostly everyone win.

It could be considered as self-congratulatory to curate a collection of success stories, which makes this book sometimes feel like a self-help book. But considering the esteemed list of contributors like Seth Godin, Neil Blumenthal, Chris Guillebeau and more, the insight in here does come from true luminaries.

Make Your Mark

The print edition of Make Your Mark includes some bold design flourishes to emphasize key passages and contributors.

Favorite Passages

What do Dropbox, Nest, Uber, and Airbnb all have in common? Each began as a two- or three-man start-up operation that has been transformed, in seven years or less, from a small idea into a serious business— with a multibillion-dollar valuation to boot. When you step back and look at lightning-fast growth trajectories like these, it’s clear that the rules of business have changed. Many of the classic tenets that have guided great companies for decades are now outmoded or irrelevant at best.

The best businesses aren’t profit-driven or even product-driven; they’re purpose-driven. They strive to solve real problems, meet pressing needs, and change the world in ways big and small. They make a commitment to constantly learning and iterating and evolving to become better at executing their missions. They focus on creating value, and let everything else follow.

When a start-up launches, there have to be at least some users who really need what it’s making— not just people who could see themselves using it one day, but who want it urgently. Usually this initial group of users is small, for the simple reason that if there were something that large numbers of people urgently needed and that could be built with the amount of effort a start-up usually puts into version one, it would probably already exist. Which means you have to compromise on one dimension: you can either build something a large number of people want a small amount, or something a small number of people want a large amount. Choose the latter. Not all ideas of that type are good start-up ideas, but nearly all good start-up ideas are of that type.


Although this book is 260 pages, it’s broken into twenty one distinct stories told by different entrepreneurs and goes by quickly. Unlike Zero to One, this is essentially light, fun reading that will not tax you too much. At times, it does do a lot of back-patting, but it is inspiring nonetheless.

If you decide to purchase this book you might consider the paperback version which costs only $3 more than a Kindle copy, and is beautifully designed and printed.


4 Stars


Make Your Mark on Amazon

Published on February 15, 2015

Apps I Use Daily & Recommend

flux-iconPeople often ask me about things they see me use on my laptop or iPhone. Often apps with global hotkeys that seem to flash by instantly, like Alfred, or checklist-based apps like or Wunderlist. I’ve gotten used to explaining what these apps do and how they work, but to save time I’ve collected all the information on the apps which I use daily and recommend onto a single page. There’s a link to this page in the header navigation on this site now also.

Types of Apps Listed:

  • Note and file organization
  • Calendar management
  • To-do lists
  • Habit tracking
  • Password management

Check it out and see if you don’t find something useful to incorporate into your routine.

Apps I Use & Recommend


Published on February 15, 2015

Visuals @ NASA in Chengdu

Disco Death @ NASA

Disco Death @ NASA

Last weekend we did a Disco Death show at NASA (a club) with an urban hip hop theme. We did the show with PLGRM, two amazing live artists from Boston who projected custom mapped visuals onto a large vertical beam behind the DJ booth. This show, along with last year at the same venue with Conrank, was the best show I’ve seen at this venue. Along with the recent Red Bull Music Academy event, of course.

Published on February 11, 2015