From the home office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

There is nothing I can say about David Letterman that isn’t already being said in tremendous quantity, and occasionally quality, all over the Internet. (Example.) Nothing, that is, except to relate my David Letterman Dream.

Background: I was a David Letterman fan from the very start of his national TV career. I saw him as a new comic doing stand-up on The Tonight Show. I rejoiced when a snow day meant I could stay home from school to watch his short-lived daytime program. His HBO special, “David Letterman: Looking For Fun” seemed designed to appeal especially to me, personally. I was there for the first episode of Late Night, and many more thereafter. His arrival on late-night TV just as I began the slow transformation to adulthood assured me I was inheriting a hipper and more interesting world than the genteel one inhabited by Johnny Carson and my parents. I didn’t know then to call it “postmodernism,” I just knew that there seemed to be a secret joke at the heart of pop culture and Dave and I both got it.

A few years later, halfway through college and finally living in a place of my own, feeling alternately independent and lonely, my sleep-wake cycle shifted crazily late and life an unpredictable whirl of schoolwork, friends, and cherchez la femme, Letterman became my reliable daily refuge. His frequent willingness to expose the machinery behind Late Night — the offices, the studio, the local environs, the staff and crew — was the first clear indication I ever had, and a strangely reassuring one, that a future writing top-notch TV comedy awaited me if I wanted it.

In a nearby parallel universe, Dave and I were buds.

I visited that parallel universe once in the most vivid dream of that sleep-deprived period. I got onto the elevator at the ground floor of Rockefeller Center with Dave and several others, some celebrities, some not. We all chatted amiably. As the elevator rose, it also shrunk, because 30 Rock, it turns out, was a pyramid, and that’s what pyramids do to elevators. So at each stop a number of people were forced to get out. Finally it was just me and Dave riding the last few floors to the top. Together we hatched a scheme where I would come on Late Night as a guest. Dave would introduce me as a big celebrity. (“Ladies and gentlemen, a man who needs no introduction…”) We’d make up movie premieres, charity events, and awards ceremonies for me to describe having attended. The joke would be on the audience as they tried to figure out where they were supposed to know me from.

To this day I half believe that if I had ever actually befriended David Letterman and pitched that idea to him, he would have gone for it, and I’m just as sure that no one else on TV from then until now would have.

Made man

We made a man.

When the planets literally aligned for his first appearance, thirteen years ago today, Andrea and I hoped to make him smart, confident, hard-working, and respectful (despite having to guess at how one achieves that). We never dared to imagine we’d get funny, honest, handsome, inquisitive, thoughtful, athletic, resourceful, kind, generous, friendly, responsible, dependable, creative, and mature into the bargain, but that’s what we got.

We take some of the credit for laying the foundation, but most of that good stuff is all you, Jonah. We’re long past being merely proud of you. It is a privilege to know you.

When you click a YouTube link

Earlier today I gave a presentation about YouTube to seventh graders for “career day” at Jonah’s middle school. (Actually I gave it six times in a row to rotating classroomsful of kids, with the result that (a) I’m totally shredded and (b) I have even more respect for what teachers do all day every day.) Coincidentally it’s the tenth anniversary of the first YouTube video.

I thought fifth grade would be my last chance to appear cool to Jonah’s classmates on his behalf (and I’ve now given that presentation to Archer’s class too), but it looks like I have some coolness left after all. He even allowed me to walk to school with him and his neighborhood friends this morning:

Me: OK if I walk to school with you in the morning?

Jonah, shrugging: Sure.

Me: OK. Just wanted to make sure I wasn’t cramping your style or anything.

Jonah: What style?

Maybe YouTube lends me a little extra middle-school cred. Anyway, the presentation was well-received by most of the kids. It involved soliciting sixteen volunteers per class to read different parts aloud in a short little play I wrote. Each volunteer got a copy of the script with his or her part individually highlighted (which I did by hand earlier this week for all ninety-six copies I needed to hand out – eight pages each – and this in the middle of April, because I’m a glutton for punishment). I was a little worried about getting enough volunteers in each class, but I need not have been; the kids were down with whatever the YouTube guy wanted to do. I gave out my bribes anyway: YouTube stickers and pens.

I was the narrator. Everyone in the class who didn’t volunteer for one of the other parts became “All the buttons and menus.” After we performed the scene, the teacher displayed a web page I had prepared containing a YouTube link and we watched – hopefully with a little better understanding now of what was going on behind the scenes – as she clicked it and Dramatic Chipmunk played. It took a split second to perform all the actions we’d just spent eight minutes dramatizing.

We didn’t get to the song I included at the end of the script. I didn’t expect to but included it anyway as a little lagniappe for the kids. I hope some of them are singing it now; I know I am.

After the sixth presentation, I thanked the teacher for hosting me. She complimented me on the scene I had written. “Thanks,” I said, “but after six repetitions the words have lost all meaning.” She replied, “Welcome to the world of teaching.”

Porn talk

My older son is closing in on 13 years old, has Internet access, and wears the same size shoes as I do. So I figured it’s time to have the Porn Talk with him.

I sat down to write a bullet list of talking points that I wanted to be sure to cover, but it came out in essay form instead. It’s reproduced below. Note the careful omission of judgmental and heteronormative language. If the values expressed are similar to yours, please feel free to repurpose this for your own parental porn talk.


There are good things about porn, bad things about porn, and in-between things about porn. It’s important to know about all of them before you get too involved with it.

First, the obvious. Porn can be fun. It’s exciting, it’s arousing, it’s a sort of “preview of coming attractions” before your actual sex life begins. It can help you learn about what sexual things you like and what things you don’t at a time when experimenting with other people is not possible (or at least not a good idea). It can answer some of your questions about sex, ones that maybe you’re too embarrassed to ask, or ones you simply didn’t think of. Being interested in porn is normal and OK. I’d be more concerned about a 13-year-old boy who wasn’t.

Now the not so obvious. Most porn is very different from real-life sex. In porn, the men and women have perfect bodies, are easily excited, and are always up for anything. They do not worry about pregnancy or about sexually transmitted diseases. This is a fantasy. You should not expect real sex to be just like porn any more than you’d expect real archaeology to be like Raiders of the Lost Ark. In real life, bodies aren’t perfect, people aren’t always in the mood, and sometimes you or your partner will say “ow” or “stop” or “no, I don’t want to do that.” I don’t mean that real-life sex isn’t amazing – it often is. It’s also sometimes just OK, and sometimes it’s even bad, like everything else in real life.

There is a serious problem that exists among some people who look at porn: they can develop unrealistic expectations about sex and about their partners. When things aren’t just like what they learned in porn, they get disappointed and disinterested. This can really interfere with their intimate relationships and mess up their lives. This doesn’t mean that you should accept a partner who disappoints you. The point of dating is to find someone with whom you’re compatible, who is into the same things (sexually and otherwise) and whom you find exciting. It’s OK to want a little fantasy in your sex life. But if all you know is porn, you risk closing yourself off to the wider, richer world of real-life sex.

Beyond that, there are worse problems. One is the problem of porn addiction, which is a real thing to be feared. You can become addicted to anything that gives you pleasure. It’s a biochemical change in the brain, which is what makes it so difficult to reverse. (You can read more about it here.) This is why we say that things should be enjoyed “in moderation.”

How can you tell the difference between innocent enjoyment on the one hand, and problematic addiction on the other? It’s actually pretty easy. When it starts interfering with other parts of your life, it’s an addiction. You may act towards other people in ways you wouldn’t normally choose to. You may skip activities in which you would normally participate. You might perform poorly on schoolwork or other tasks that you could usually do well. You definitely want to avoid getting addicted, because once you have an addiction, breaking it is very, very hard. To avoid addiction, exercise control over when you look at porn. Don’t let it exercise control over you. To reverse addiction, you first have to be able to acknowledge it exists, which can be hard all by itself. (A good rule of thumb: if you ever find yourself insisting, to yourself or others, that you don’t have a problem, that’s a sign that you probably do.) Seek help from someone, and get yourself involved in one or more different activities to divert your brain’s attention from what it’s craving.

Another serious problem is that, although there’s plenty of porn out there depicting joyful and even loving sex between consenting partners, there is also unfortunately a lot of the opposite: porn that is humiliating to someone, or degrading, or even violent. Porn with one or more of the people clearly not enjoying themselves. Sometimes it’s just an act, but much more often the people in this kind of porn are trapped in a life that’s little better than slavery, and the people producing this kind of porn are genuinely evil. Stay away from this stuff. Not only does looking at it encourage the scum that makes it; the bad vibes can take you to a dark place, messing up your head and your future sex life.

Some porn is actually illegal – illegal to make, and even illegal to look at, and people go to jail for it all the time. This does not apply to most normal porn featuring consenting adult men and women, but even that exists in a grey area where very many people disapprove of it, sending the police and the courts after them at every opportunity. (A great movie about this, which is also a true story, is The People vs. Larry Flynt.) As a result, the whole porn world is sort of semi-legal, and that invites certain kinds of scam artists. Beware of identifying yourself in any way to any porn site. If you are invited to chat, ignore it. Don’t answer survey questions. If you are offered a free signup to some new site, ignore it. Definitely do not respond to requests for photos or video of yourself or others. Disable “browser cookies” if possible. I can show you how. And do not download files; they are almost guaranteed to turn your computer into part of a criminal botnet under the control of Russian gangsters!

The point of all this is not to scare you or to be a killjoy. It’s only that if you’re not aware of this stuff and you’re not careful, it’s all too easy to land on content you’re better off avoiding, or to mess yourself up in a variety of ways. Forewarned is forearmed.

The most important thing is to remember that you can talk to me about any of this any time you like. If you have questions, if you see anything that bothers or worries you, if you have anything you want to express, I’m here. I promise never to embarrass you and to keep everything just between us. Don’t forget, I was a 13-year-old boy once too, and I was also every age you’re going to be for the next few decades. There’s bound to be some info in my head that you’d find helpful, and even when there isn’t, sometimes all you need is someone who’ll listen.

We’re not fledgling

THIS ASSET PURCHASE AGREEMENT (this “Agreement”) is made and entered into as of and shall take effect on March 1, 2015 (the “Closing Date”), by and among [company that may not wish to be named quite yet], a California corporation (“Buyer”), ZANSHIN, a California corporation (“Seller”), and Seller’s principal shareholders, BARTON SCHAEFER, STEVE WEBSTER, GREGORY FOX, and ROBERT GLICKSTEIN (collectively the “Majority Shareholders”).

Thus ends, for all intents and purposes, the story of Zanshin, the company that my friends and I started in 1996 after resigning en masse from Z-Code. It will continue to exist in name and in certain administrative functions, but [unnamed company] is buying substantially all its assets and hiring away most of its employees.

Z-Code was the producer of an award-winning cross-platform e-mail client, Z-Mail. In 1994 Z-Code’s owner Dan Heller sold the company to Network Computing Devices (NCD), a hardware company. Much of Z-Code’s staff was baffled by the sale and considered it ill-advised. Indeed there followed a corporate comedy of errors as first Dan was let go and then NCD’s top leaders, Judy Estrin and Bill Carrico, were fired. As we’d predicted, NCD’s sales staff had no idea how to sell software. As the World Wide Web started gaining traction, we were alarmed when NCD’s clueless new CEO, Ed Marinaro, tried to repurpose Z-Code’s staff of e-mail software experts as developers of a new Windows-only web browser called Mariner. Meanwhile, we were denied opportunities to make badly needed improvements to Z-Mail, and finally, after a number of grassroots efforts to turn things around had failed, a bunch of us gave up and quit to start our own e-mail software company.

After considering and rejecting several names we settled on Zanshin, a Japanese word meaning some badass combination of “emotional intensity” and “follow-through.” We discovered it in this passage in Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, describing a swordfight between avatars in the high-resolution virtual reality called the “Metaverse”:

The businessman reaches across his body with his right hand, grips the handle of his sword just below the guard, draws it out, snaps it forward so it’s pointing at Hiro, then places his left hand on the grip just below the right. [...]

The businessman turns out to have a lot of zanshin. Translating this concept into English is like translating “fuckface” into Nipponese, but it might translate into “emotional intensity” in football lingo. He charges directly at Hiro, hollering at the top of his lungs. [...]

“Emotional intensity” doesn’t convey the half of it, of course. It is the kind of coarse and disappointing translation that makes the dismembered bodies of samurai warriors spin in their graves. The word “zanshin” is larded down with a lot of other folderol that you have to be Nipponese to understand.

And Hiro thinks, frankly, that most of it is pseudomystical crap, on the same level as his old high school football coach exhorting his men to play at 110 percent.

We incorporated with our own money (proceeds from selling NCD stock) and the help of a fancy Sand Hill Road lawyer. We rented a house in Petaluma where some of us lived and all of us worked on bringing to life our vision of a beautiful and functional e-mail manager built on the theory that, done right, e-mail could serve as the repository for all one’s private information and communications. In hindsight our plan was not sufficiently well-defined, and neither was our project development timeline. More than two years passed of writing code together every day, grappling with the early web and our ever-problematic dialup Internet access, pushing the boundaries of the IMAP e-mail protocol and the fledgling GNU C++ compiler, and taking turns cooking for one another, watching The Simpsons together, and generally not operating with an adequate sense of purpose or urgency. By the time our e-mail client, code-named Lawndart, finally began sparking to life, the entire e-mail landscape had changed beneath our feet. Free clients like Outlook Express and Eudora had become ubiquitous and were good enough for most people, and free web-based mail from Microsoft and Yahoo was starting to take off. Even if we had gotten Lawndart to market, no one would have cared.

The only software we ever released was a Lisp-like text-markup language called Latte (“Language for Transforming Text”) and its followup, Blatte (“Better Language for Transforming Text”), which we open-sourced and gave away as a kind of corporate calling card. Somehow or other this led to Zanshin getting an extended consulting gig with Amazon.com, for which a couple of us ended up traveling back and forth to Seattle a lot. Things I remember from that time:

  • Checking in and out and in and out of the Residence Inn on Lake Union week after week;
  • The offices in which we did our work, and several of the people we worked with;
  • Various meetings and meals;
  • Keeping in touch with my new wife via the late-90’s-vintage phone I carried on a belt clip;
  • Being extra fastidious about tracking my time, reporting my progress, and keeping expenses down

but I’m damned if I can remember the nature of any actual work we did for them. Nevertheless, the gig went so well that Amazon offered to relocate us all to Seattle and hire us. Andrea flew up to Seattle to get the vibe of the place. Together we decided it was definitely doable.

Back in California we had a few long talks about Zanshin’s prospects and how we all felt about packing it in and moving to Seattle. Some of us were in favor, some were opposed and felt that Zanshin had some life left in it. We recognized that our dream of a high-tech e-mail client was dead; but in those long-overdue discussions we started to conceive of some exciting new ideas for the server side of e-mail and, in the end, convinced ourselves to stick it out as a software startup. We turned Amazon down.

We began describing to ourselves, and then to some business consultants, a collection of server-side e-mail features that collectively we called “MSpace.” Zanshin moved out of rented houses and into actual offices, and we took a little extra investment to keep us going (including from the notorious Gary Kremen, owner of the sex.com domain).

One way and another, our plans for MSpace took a detour into the realm of e-mail marketing — spamming, essentially, but ethical spamming as we were always quick to point out, for reputable marketers only, never sharing e-mail lists, and always providing no-hassle opt-out. I wrote a high-performance e-mail delivery engine and the aforementioned Blatte language for creating dynamic customizable templates, and Zanshin, operating its e-mail marketing service under the name iPost, finally started earning money.

This whole time I had been moonlighting as a founding member of the Internet Movie Database. In 1998 Amazon.com bought the IMDb (a coincidence not related to Zanshin’s consulting gig) and early in 2001 they asked me to join full-time. Five years of earning first no salary and later only a token amount had taken its toll, particularly since Andrea and I were planning to start a family; and the e-mail marketing business, though it was taking off, failed to move me. After consulting with my partners we agreed that I’d wrap up work on iPost’s delivery engine and then be done.

However, Andrea had joined Zanshin a couple of years earlier herself and she remained even as I went on to work full-time for the IMDb, and later for other companies. The e-mail marketing business amassed a surprisingly healthy client list and collected enough revenue to pay competitive salaries to a growing staff of developers and salespeople. I returned for a couple of short contract gigs from time to time. But as the years passed, the margins got slimmer and slimmer and the industry consolidated behind a few ever-larger players. Two of the other original founders had also left. New-product ideas always came second to dealing with never-ending customer issues. There was still momentum in the business, but it was unclear for how much longer. The time for a change had come, and I am grateful to Andrea and my Zanshin partners for making it happen.


Postscript. The title of this post comes from an episode at Z-Code. When a magazine, in its review of our product, Z-Mail, called our company a fledgling startup, we bristled, having by then grown quite a bit and able to count companies like Chevron and Silicon Graphics among our business partners. I undertook to make a sign for the office reading, “Z-Code Software: We’re Not Fledgling,” and it became a frequently heard catchphrase.

2014: rYeEviARew

“Year” in “review,” get it? Some of my social media utterances for the past year.

(Previously: 1, 2, 3, 4.)

  • Growing Up Unvaccinated
    Vaccine deniers endanger themselves, their children, and (what not enough people seem to understand) ME and MY CHILDREN too.
  • I just upgraded from Fedora 19 to Fedora 20. Notably absent: teeth-gnashing; hair-pulling; garment-rending; hot salty tears of frustration. It Just Worked. I… I don’t understand.
  • Jonah, just before falling asleep at the end of New Year’s Day: “It’s 2014. One more year until hovercars.”
  • Climate-change denial. Vaccine denial. Evolution denial. I suspect a healthy suspicion of authority is behind all of them, but if so, it’s misguided, because science is anti-authoritarian. That is to say, you don’t have to take anyone’s word for it when it comes to scientific claims; you can in principle test them for yourself. I don’t think people understand this well enough. Then again, there’s an awful lot unsaid in that “in principle.”
  • Is Wolf of Wall Street Really the Sweariest Movie of All Time? A Slate Investigation.
    Scorsese strikes again. (Previously: http://www.geebobg.com/2010/09/15/wtf/)
  • There is a stereotype in WWII movies (including documentaries) of the pugnacious but lovable Italian guy from Brooklyn fighting alongside his other American GI buddies. This at a time that German-Americans and Japanese-Americans were being interned or expelled or regarded by other Americans with everything from suspicion to outright hatred. Why? After all, Italy was part of the Axis too.
  • We are Huxleying ourselves into the full Orwell
    Cory Doctorow is not your usual hair-trigger alarmist.
  • Your thought for today: You can’t spell Russia without U-S-A. You can’t spell United States of America without R-U-S-S-I-A. That is all.
  • Pancake mix: not delicious. Add water: not delicious. Drive water back out (by heating on a griddle): delicious. Can’t explain that.
  • Lisa: This show is the biggest farce I ever saw!
    Bart: What about the Emmys?
    Lisa: I stand corrected.
  • My kids refuse to watch Groundhog Day on Groundhog Day because, in their words, “It’s boring: it’s just the same thing happening again and again.” Where did I go wrong?
  • A Nobel prize! A piece of string! You know what’s awesome? Everything!
  • Wow, splendid days!
  • Andrea, on the box of chocolates she bought me yesterday: “I almost didn’t get them. They said “dark hearts.” That’s not positive!”
  • In Arizona’s defense, it’s where we saw our first and only gay rodeo.
  • I remember a lot of predictions about the future of computing from when I was younger. Some far-out ones have come true, and some obvious ones haven’t. But no one predicted that in 2014 we would call our computers “phones.”
  • According to a New Study, Nothing Can Change an Anti-Vaxxer’s Mind
    Sigh. If there ever really was an Age of Reason, it’s surely over now.
  • The Adele Dazeem Name Generator
    Awesome. My Travolta name is Brian Grizeen.
  • Pepsi YouTube preroll ad made entirely of movie quotes, you had me at hello. http://youtu.be/OCXr7ECpGQg
  • One terabyte for sixty-nine bucks. Unbelievable.
  • Grave Science
    Heard this NPR story recently and was amazed at the importance people place on the remains of their loved ones. For the record: when I’m gone, the one and only thing I care about how my remains are handled is that they present the absolute minimum of expense, inconvenience, and distress to the living.
  • How do young couples today cope with new marriage, parenthood, and job stress without having had “thirtysomething” to guide them?
  • Spring has sprung, the boid is on the wing!
    Don’t be absoid. The wing is on the boid!
    (h/t Chuck Menahem Kanafi)
  • Speaking of thirtysomething, I’ve been rewatching it on Amazon Instant Video. Like all TV shows from 1987, it was originally presented in 4:3 format, and supposedly the DVD release was in that format too. So how is Amazon Instant Video managing to show it in 16:9? The picture isn’t stretched, and nothing is obviously missing from the top or bottom of the frame.
  • I fretted for a long time about how I’d know when it was time to let the kids roam more widely, unsupervised. But as with all parenting things, when the time was right it was self-evident.
  • Scarlett Johansson is OK I guess, but I don’t think she’s as super-h4wt as everyone else seems to think. Do I have to surrender my guy credentials?
  • If you’ve ever wondered “What is the right number of Ritz crackers?” I’m happy to be able to tell you the answer is 7.
  • Happy 10th birthday to Amazing Awesome Astonishing Archer.
    (Photo: E. 59th Street, NYC, August 2006.)
  • Time is a lot older than tide.
  • Five minutes into the Laserium revival playing at the Chabot Space & Science Center, I was thinking, “Chalk up another mind-blowing thing from the 70’s that didn’t age well.” Fifteen minutes into it I was all like: whoa.
  • Each morning I start in my driveway at home and have to make it to my desk at work. When I think about all the possible places there are to end up, getting to my desk should be like finding a needle in a haystack, but I never fail. Also, millions of others _don’t_ end up at my desk. What a display of intention! I’m often amazed by how casually we all repeat accomplishments like these. Who’s with me?
  • I love these kinds of comparisons: the original Star Wars came out closer in time to the bombing of Pearl Harbor than to the present day. Do you have any good ones like this?
  • To everyone forwarding me the link about the Star Wars casting news that was burning up the Internet yesterday: thanks for thinking of me, but it’s a little like telling a woman, “Your abusive ex-husband is out on parole and has been seen with his old drinking buddies.”
  • Back in sixth grade, when I left too much work for the last minute, which was often, I would have a frustration-and-despair meltdown when confronted by how much I had still to do and how little time. Bit by agonizing bit I would finish my work and end up with something crappy, reflecting my mood.
    When Jonah leaves too much work for the last minute, which is seldom, he buckles down and gets that shit done, producing a result of his usual high caliber. Proud of that guy.
  • Bike to work day: not so challenging when you’re working from home.
  • Seven years is a long time to miss your mom, especially when her grandkids (and once in a while, her son) keep achieving things that she would have loved hearing about. She would also have loved Facebook and YouTube and Candy Crush. She would have loved the hunky star of “Arrow.”
    And that seven years is only going to get longer and longer. Sucks.
  • [Mother's Day.]
    Andrea Glickstein:
    Two great kids = one great mom
    Thanks for parenting with aplomb
    As a mom, you’re the bomb
  • Godzilla is this year’s Prometheus: a movie on which inadequacy in the film criticism industry failed to prevent me wasting my time.
  • I am a grown man. This was my dinner tonight. I leave it to you to decide whether a contradiction exists.
  • I’m that middle-aged man who finds that a little whisky and soda helps him unwind after a difficult day at work. How did that happen?
  • I’m a mathematician, and the fact that hot dogs are sold in packages of seven and hot dog buns are sold in packages of eight makes me want to buy 56 of each at a time.
  • Looking at myself in the lavatory mirror, I can report that any long flight is a red-eye.
  • This morning my kids reaffirmed what a great dad they think I am. But how could I ever have been without the example of Eddie Glickstein? He taught me everything I know… but he didn’t teach me everything he knows. Thanks Pop, and happy Father’s Day!
  • My rule of thumb is to avoid posting on Facebook unless I believe I have something reasonably original and/or amusing and/or interesting and/or important to contribute. (You can decide for yourself whether I generally succeed.)
    This is not to pass judgment on those who use other guidelines for what to post. On the contrary, recently I read the following (at http://www.theguardian.com/news/oliver-burkeman-s-blog/2014/may/21/everyone-is-totally-just-winging-it):
    “[O]ne of the biggest causes of misery is the way we chronically “compare our insides with other people’s outsides.” We’re all [...] projecting an image of calm proficiency, while inside we’re improvising in a mad panic. Yet we forget (especially in an era of carefully curated Facebook profiles and suchlike) that everyone else is doing the same thing”
    …and it occurred to me that, without meaning to, I might be projecting just such an image.
    I think I’ve outgrown my own tendency to compare my insides to other people’s outsides, but I can remember how crummy it felt. This post is to assure you that the “outside” you see here omits an awful lot of stuff from my life that is neither calm nor proficient nor original nor amusing nor interesting nor important.
  • I spend a lot of time commuting, and a lot of that time listening to podcasts. I have my podcast player set to play audio at 1.5x normal speed. Increasingly I find normal speaking speed to be unbearably slow.
  • Thanks to having a best friend in high school with a mom named Merry, when I got to college and read Lord of the Rings (none too carefully, apparently) I got pretty far into the story believing that Pippin and Merry were a quarreling husband-and-wife team until my eye finally caught an unexpected pronoun and my brain said “Wait, what?”
  • The distance between San Francisco and New York is nothing compared to the distance between what San Franciscans consider to be the very finest local Italian bread and the vastly superior stuff in New York that is so commonplace New Yorkers seldom even give it a thought.
  • We taught our dog Pepper the proper way to ask when she needs to go outside to relieve herself. But she asks far more often than she actually needs to go, so we have a hard time knowing when it’s for real. She’s the wolf who cried wolf.
  • They Might Be Giants, Jonathan Coulton, and Radiolab’s Jad and Robert all on the same installment of NPR’s Ask Me Another. Nerd pleasure overload!!
  • Blueprint for Armageddon part 1
    On this, the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, do yourself a favor and listen to (at least) the first installment of Dan Carlin’s series of podcasts on World War I. Learn how the modern world was born in blood and fire and a cascade of outrageous events.
  • [For my niece's 21st birthday.]
    Yo! Yo! McKenna!
    You’re one-and-ten-and-ten-ah!
    I knew you way back when-ah!
    Come visit us again-ah!
    McKenna! Yo! Yo!
    Today’s your birthday-o!
    You can drink some alcoho’
    Which you couldn’t do befo’!
  • Driving through Lassen Volcanic National Park on July 4th, the car filled with the scent of millions of conifers.
    Archer: My second-favorite smell.
    Me: What’s your first?
    Archer: Justice.
  • Saturday morning: drinking coffee, waiting for the rest of the family to be ready for an outing to the Sundial Bridge in Redding. I start reading The Circle, by Dave Eggers. On page one, describing the campus of a Google-like company, he mentions a “Calatrava fountain.” What’s that? I wonder, but I have no data connectivity so can’t look it up. A short time later we’re at the Sundial Bridge. Its designer: Santiago Calatrava.
  • If your goal is to catch up on watching the best movies and TV of the past few years, your evenings are going to be Matthew McConaugheavy.
  • [For my sister-in-law's birthday.]
    D is for disestablishmentarianism! E is for establishmentarianism! N is for noncontemporaneousness! I is for interdenominationalism! S is for stereophotomicrography! E is for establishmentarianism, I already told you, weren’t you paying attention? What’s that spell? DENISE! What’s that spell? DENISE! What’s that spell? DENISE! Yaaayyy!
  • Saw Edge of Tomorrow yesterday and really liked it. But I am so fond of Groundhog Day that part of me resents Edge of Tomorrow for co-opting its premise and structure so successfully. (It’s redeemed in part by naming its female lead “Rita,” acknowledging the debt it owes to its predecessor.)
  • I defy anyone who parrots the conventional wisdom that The Godfather Part II and The Empire Strikes Back are better than their respective predecessors to lay out their reasons why in as clear a fashion as I have explained why they are not.
    http://www.geebobg.com/2006/12/22/a-movie-you-dont-like-as-much-as-you-think-you-do/
    http://www.geebobg.com/2007/05/03/the-exegesis-strikes-back/
  • One quibble about the otherwise excellent True Detective: in a scene set in 2002, Woody Harrelson enters what looks like a modern T-Mobile store to buy a flip phone. It has a built-in camera, and trading phone pics with another character becomes a plot point. This is all anachronistic. In 2002 T-Mobile was a newly launched brand in the U.S. (it had been Voicestream) and its stores looked very different; among other things, Catherine Zeta-Jones’ face was everywhere. Cameras in cell phones was not yet a thing. For the few who did have cell phone cameras, exchanging photos by MMS barely worked. And even if it had occurred to anyone to look through the pics on someone’s phone, which it wouldn’t have, any casual user would have had a hard time figuring out how.
  • Just woke up from a dream that I was trying to adjust the aspect ratio of the picture on my TV. In the on-screen menu, all the menu options said things like, “Shocking! This setting’s value revealed.”
  • The Internet has everything. This was probably the first record I ever owned. http://youtu.be/9b6M1LqQVjg
  • Andrea: “Jonah is a self-proclaimed laid-back guy.”
    Jonah: “I never said self-proclaimed!”
  • Had a dream about S.W.A.T. In the dream I thought S.W.A.T. stood for “strategic weapons assault team.” (It doesn’t.) I was going around trying to point out the semantic difference between “strategic” and “tactical,” but they weren’t willing to change their acronym.
  • The Cluss Test
    6 out of 8! 3x better than random. How good are you at taking tests on subjects you know nothing about?
  • 21 Jump Street: aggressively offensive and unfunny, or am I just getting old?
  • Some people have never driven away from the gas pump with the nozzle still stuck in their car. Some people have. Guess which group I joined today?
  • PAPERWORK BATTLE!
    BUYING A HOUSE
    -VERSUS-
    FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
    FIGHT!!!
  • Just saw a guy walking down the road with an actual bindle over his shoulder.
  • My sleeping brain made a joke that it took my waking brain some time to “get.”
    I dreamed I was using a fitness app called Wheat. Remembered after waking up that, in the dream, it was a stripped-down version of another app called Toast.
  • At a suggestion from Terry Gross I am re-reading The Great Gatsby and (as promised) finding it infinitely more interesting and enjoyable than I did in tenth grade, or whenever it was, when I didn’t know… anything, really, including how to read literature.
    For instance, back then I could never have understood Fitzgerald’s intention with the seemingly throwaway line about the elevator lever near the end of chapter two. http://goo.gl/N5Rl68
  • I moved to California in April 1992. Each morning I looked at the cloudy sky and wondered whether it would rain. For months it never did. The clouds burned off by 10 or 11am and the day was always sunny and gorgeous. I never failed to appreciate that, but I was missing having some variety in the weather. Paradise gets monotonous. Finally, one day in September the rain came, just like today. I was at work, in a meeting, and saw it through the window. I shouted, “Rain!” and left the meeting at once, running outside to do a giddy dance and get drenched.
  • 25 years this week that I quit a pack-a-day smoking habit. Still miss it.
  • The phrase “in one’s wheelhouse” seems to be having a moment. It’s suddenly everywhere. With luck, this will push aside all the recent abuse of the word “iconic.”
    • [In response to a comment about the popularity of the word "curating."] There’s a small chance I’m personally responsible for the currency of “curating.” When I joined YouTube in 2008 I pitched some feature ideas to support and reward curators of good videos — those who find and share the best content on the site. That word was not in use at YouTube at the time. It was my new coinage in the context of online social media. Before long “Creators and Curators” was the name of a whole department, and people talked about video curation all the time.
      I can’t be sure the rise of the word “curating” at YouTube is due to me, let alone in the wider culture, but I can’t rule it out either…
  • Any coffee machine failure that creates a mess of coffee grounds on your kitchen counter rather than a potful of coffee ironically, and unavoidably, comes at the worst possible time: namely, when you’re needing a cup of coffee.
  • [The SF Giants won the World Series.]
    Joy in Mudville!
  • How is “trust but verify” any different than “don’t trust”?
  • [After the 2014 election.]
    My poor benighted countrymen.
    http://youtu.be/kWdfRRtAs3o?t=1s
  • Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens
    Star Wars VIII: The Force Eats a Balanced Breakfast
    Star Wars IX: The Force Is Late for the Bus
    (Rise and shine, Forcey!)
  • HBO Will Make Asimov’s Foundation With Interstellar’s Jonathan Nolan
    Two things:
    1. OMG! OMG! OMG!
    2. Please don’t suck. Please don’t suck. Please don’t suck.
  • I wasn’t having a great week. BUT THEN HUMANS LANDED ON A COMET.
  • Here is a list of ways I would rather have spent the past 26 years than with Andrea Glickstein:
  • I don’t believe in magic
    I don’t believe in I-ching
    I don’t believe in Bible
    I don’t believe in Tarot
    I don’t believe in Hitler
    I don’t believe in Jesus
    I don’t believe in Kennedy
    I don’t believe in Buddha
    I don’t believe in Mantra
    I don’t believe in Gita
    I don’t believe in Yoga
    I don’t believe in Kings
    I don’t believe in Elvis
    I don’t believe in Zimmerman
    I don’t believe in Beatles
    I don’t believe in Cosby
    (In case the reference is too obscure: http://youtu.be/nZ5PQppudHc?t=1m.)
  • Nothing like coming home after being away for a few days to realize how much your house smells like dog.
  • My anniversary gift from Andrea: the same Casio calculator watch that she remembers me wearing in 1988 when we first met! Some things never change… and then some things, like my ability to make out the button labels and display elements of this watch, do.
  • Archer is a picky eater and doesn’t give me many options for his school lunches. He does like roast beef sandwiches… but only if the roast beef is warm. What’s a source of heat safe enough for warming up roast beef at an elementary school? Our solution: a few chemical hand-warmers.
  • Hi Mom, on what would have been your 52nd 29th birthday!
    We’ll be observing your day by engaging in your favorite activity: swimming!
  • So, we went swimming the night of my mom’s birthday. It was too cold for swimming, really, so we were in the pool for only a short time. But somehow it was just the right time to see a shooting star pass directly overhead — the brightest one I’ve ever seen, so bright it lit up our surroundings, making us look up to see it. As we watched, it burst apart into a shower of glowing fragments just like fireworks.
    Mom approves of our commemorative swimming tradition.
  • Schrödinger’s pressure test.

    Both sent to the same address on the same day. One says our gas line was tested and is fine. One says our gas line was tested, leaked, and needed repair.
  • Jonah has been catching up on the Burton/Schumacher Batman movies of the 80’s and 90’s. What a laughably cringeworthy, calamitous mess they are.
  • My poor family. I just discovered a trove of high-quality karaoke tracks on Google Play Music.
  • From the depths of my food coma I still have enough presence of mind to extend endless thanks to the amazing Suzanne Glickstein for coming to visit and single-handedly preparing for us a large and very belated traditional Thanksgiving feast. It, and she, were worth the wait.
  • When the furnace in your house hasn’t worked for the past two days, and they’ve been the two coldest days of the year, and the indoor temperature has dropped to 52F, wearing layers can keep you perfectly comfortable… except when it comes to the toilet seat. Yow.

Sanka Claus

Determined not to leave shopping, decorating, or this yearly task to the last minute!

You better wake up
You better arouse
You better not drift
Or catnap or drowse
Sanka Claus is coming to town

He’s boiling a pot
And stirring in stuff
That, when you drink it
Is just not enough
Sanka Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you’re sleepy
He wants to help you wake
Though it’s hot and black, it has no caffeine
So it’s all a sad mistake

So
If you’re not alert
And need a pick-up
Politely decline
His well-meaning cup
Sanka Claus is coming to town

(Previously.)

Just got it, part 2

Seven years ago I wrote about belatedly getting the joke behind “born lever-puller,” Gnip Gnop, and “Fargo North, Decoder.” I wrote:

Can’t help wondering what long-overdue realization is next…

I now have an answer. Just a couple of days ago I finally “got” the name of Keebler’s E.L. Fudge cookies.

Æffect

If I can effect the effective use of affect, effect, affect, and effect, the effect will be to affect my affect.

noun verb
AFFECT  Outward expression of one’s mood.
“Andrew’s affect is always anxious.”
(accent on the first syllable; think Ben Affleck)
Cause a generalized change.
“Angelina’s attitude affects Alice’s acting.”
(accent on the second syllable)
EFFECT  The result of some cause.
“Ernie’s eating everything had an enlarging effect.”
Cause a specific thing to happen.
“Etna’s eruption effected an exodus.”