Kill Ralphie! saved!

[Cross-posted at]

In the 1980’s, students and faculty at Carnegie Mellon University were on the Internet, but there was no World Wide Web yet – no browsers, no websites, no Google, Facebook, or YouTube; in fact, no video and almost no graphics, just text. But there still existed social communities online, organized into discussion forums on numerous topics. Usenet was the biggest of these. Carnegie Mellon had its own internal collection of discussion forums called bboards.

One bboard was called “Kill Ralphie!” When someone posted to Kill Ralphie, they were contributing a chapter to an ongoing story about a hapless lad who is alternately placed in immediate mortal danger, then rescued, both in the most creative and entertaining ways possible. I was an enthusiastic participant back then, along with many others at CMU. Writing for an audience of fellow contributors was a formative experience for me that improved my prose and humor skills from “immature” to “slightly less immature.”

Well, guess what? Kill Ralphie! lives again! I’ve taken that old pastime and turned it into a fun new website. Please check it out, contribute chapters, and enjoy:

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:
  • 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.
  • 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
    “[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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:
  • 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

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


Soccer vs. baseball

What can explain the American disinterest in soccer, the favorite sport of the rest of the world? I’m sure I don’t know.

Shmegley McSchmoop

A children’s classic in the making. Just needs an illustrator.

“Shmegley McSchmoop, please bring me some soup!”
Cried the customer to the headwaiter.
“I need something hot, so what have you got?
We can talk about main courses later.”

“Today, sir, the soup is just cold gloppy goop,”
Said Shmegley McSchmoop with some sorrow.
“But the chef says that we will be serving split-pea
If you come back at this time tomorrow.”

2013: Cleverness in review

If you don’t slavishly follow my every utterance on social media you might have missed some of these during the past year. (Now you’ll know what you need to do in the year to come.)

(Previously: 1, 2, 3.)

  • The power of Downton Abbey: five minutes into the first episode of the first season, I, an avowed coffee drinker, hit pause and went to brew myself a cup of tea.
  • George W. Bush
    Nude self-portrait in shower
    Please, not Cheney next
  • [On the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI] Too pooped to Pope.
  • My Uncle Al died today. I and many others will miss him. As sad as that is, it’s not nearly as sad as it is awesome that he lived. Funny, friendly, a mensch. He knew that the best kind of success is a large and loving family. If I have half the success he had in that department I’ll count myself lucky. If only all that love didn’t have to turn to sorrow now.
  • Do you think that, when a dog sees someone they love coming closer, they’re all like, “OK, be cool,” but always forget about their tail totally giving them away?
  • All this speculation in the trade press about the iWatch and similar devices, and not one mention of Dick Tracy. Am I too old, or are the reporters too young?
  • Three words that I wish had different meanings so I could use them more: eleemosynary; chupacabra; speculum.
  • Everyone’s giving Obama a hard time for his “Jedi Mind Meld” comment, as if he doesn’t know the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars. In fact he’s one step ahead of everyone else, having heard that Star Trek director JJ Abrams will next be directing Star Wars. They just didn’t get the joke.
  • Four episodes in on Homeland, one of the vaunted “best shows on TV.” Not one thing that has happened has been surprising or interesting. Nothing rings true. There’s a lot of gratuitous fans-expect-it-because-it’s-cable swearing and screwing. And not only do I not care about any of the characters, I think I actively dislike all of them. Maybe that’s the whole point, but I don’t care – I give up.
  • [After “springing forward.”] Attention daylight savings time whiners: you were happy enough getting that extra hour last fall. That doesn’t come for free, you know.
  • Gave Andrea a bouquet of eight roses this morning, and a card with this poem: “Long ago / In ’88 / We went on / A datey-date / Each day since then’s / Been greaty-great / All eight thousand eight hundred / Eighty-eight!”
  • I know this is probably obvious, but it’s still striking: walking around the offices of YouTube, you hear the word “video” an awful lot.
  • [Neither half of this rhyme is actually true, as far as I know, but it popped into my head anyway and I had to share it.]

    Kids in France
    They drink wine
    Moms and dads there
    Think it’s fine

    Give some wine
    To your kid here:
    Are severe

  • Calling him a film critic is selling him short. Goodbye Ebert. “I think I’ll miss you most of all.”
  • I told the kids, “You’re my Project Tomorrow.” Archer said, “I thought we were your Project A Few Years Ago.”
  • I am thrilled by the trend of progressive political victories in such areas as gay rights and easing marijuana prohibition. But, not to detract from those hard-fought battles, I have to say they feel to me like chipping away at the edges. There are big systemic problems in America needing progressive solutions, like the broken system of incentives in Washington, or the power imbalance between citizens and corporations. Next to that the right to smoke a joint is bread and circuses. Can we focus some progressive power on the big problems?
  • This week I got terms-of-service update notices from Netflix and from AT&T, both emphasizing new mandatory-arbitration clauses, forcing me to choose between their services and having access to my country’s legal system. This needs to be made illegal.
  • I think the time is right for a Spider-Man re-reboot.
  • Major TV hosts of the 50’s: Milton Berle; Sid Caesar; George Burns; Groucho Marx. All Jewish. Major TV hosts since then: Steve Allen; Johnny Carson; Merv Griffin; David Letterman. Not Jewish. Discuss.
  • The paradox of politeness: when someone’s assisting you with something, and you tell them “take all the time you need,” they’ll go faster for you.
  • Wore a polo shirt the other day, first time in many years. Jonah said, “Dad, you’re buff!!” In the next instant he lifted up the front of my shirt and took a look. “Oh, never mind.”
  • It bothers me that movie _trailers_ get hyped-up premieres.
  • [Capsule summary of Man of Steel.] It’s a wonder there’s any of Metropolis left after all the kablooey.
  • The first thing I ever saw James Gandolfini in was Crimson Tide. He played a character named Bobby Dougherty. I’m Bobby, and Andrea’s name at the time was Dougherty. That must mean something…
  • Vintage cereal packaging works on me every single time.
  • I hate that I’m more squeamish about letting my kids see the edifying and charming Shakespeare In Love, with its couple of scenes of simulated intercourse, than I have been about letting them see any number of movies full of simulated murder and mayhem. It’s the opposite of the kind of parent I said I’d be like.
  • The scene in Man of Steel where Russell Crowe is around every corner showing Amy Adams the way to go: Was I the only one who thought of Jiminy Cricket in the Pinocchio ride at Disneyland?
  • I don’t get why “is climate change man-made?” is a central part of the public conversation about climate policy. If damaging climate change is happening, shouldn’t we act regardless of why it’s happening? If a big asteroid were on a collision course with Earth, would we argue about whether humans put it on that collision course before deciding what to do about it?
  • [California’s Proposition 8 is overturned.] Oh no, my traditional marriage is now under threat!
  • New coinage from Archer: Drinking coffee gives you “coffeedence.”
  • Secret laws aren’t laws.
  • [On the 4th of July.] Happy 237th anniversary of a major progressive political victory!
  • I thought World War Z was scary and exciting (and very much better than the overrated novel, which the filmmakers wisely jettisoned), but it suffered the same flaw as all zombie movies that aim for realism: a failure to reconcile the claim that the zombies are “dead” with the clear evidence that they’re not. They have voluntary (if coarse) muscular control; they can see and hear; they make respiratory sounds. In WWZ a scientist character says the zombies, being dead, have no functioning circulatory system. It takes only the merest understanding of biology to know this would make metabolism, and therefore locomotion, sensation, etc., impossible. Biology aside, thermodynamics demands that ambulating corpses should deplete, dehydrate, and literally fall to pieces with a few days at most. So in a real zombie apocalypse, if you can stay safely holed up for a week you should be fine.
  • Took the boys to Kirk Lombard’s Coastal Fishing and Foraging walking tour in San Francisco yesterday. Got hands-on practice snaring and handling crabs, casting Hawaiian nets for herring and other small fish, using a poke pole to catch monkeyface eels, and more, all while learning amazing facts and hearing amazing stories about fishing in and around the Bay, told in entertaining style. Highly recommended!
  • Was mildly appalled the other day to hear the kids singing Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, until I learned that the lyrics _aren’t_ “I’m up all night to get stoned, she’s up all night to get boned.”
  • So glad we poured decades’ worth of national talent and treasure into defeating our secretive, authoritarian, and belligerent adversary in the Cold War.
  • Bob’s gall bladder 1966 – 2013 RIP
  • I was in the hospital for two days. During that time they barely allowed me to eat or drink anything. When I came home I was minus an organ. So how exactly did I manage to _gain_ weight?
  • [After more than two decades in Northern California.] I miss summer rain.
  • At SF airport. A big group of teen girls just greeted an arriving teen girl with unrestrained shrieks and squeals. You know the sound I mean. I’m curious: what’s the anthropological explanation for those outbursts?
  • To understand spacetime, wrap your mind around this: the Big Bang happened in this very spot 13.8 billion years ago, and it’s also happening right now 13.8 billion light-years away in every direction.
  • Don’t know how Jonah went 11 years without hearing the expression “the boob tube,” but he heard it from me today and is endlessly amused. Although I assured him it had nothing to do with the kind of boob he’s thinking of, he’s now riffing on the idea of tubes full of them.
  • If I had run for president in 2008, I would have campaigned on restoring Constitutional checks and balances, improving governmental transparency and accountability, and rejecting unilateral military action – just like Obama did. If I had won, would I have kept those pledges, or is there something about the presidency that unavoidably subverts such intentions?
  • I find the label “geek” offensive, but I don’t mind being called a “nerd.”
  • If I ever develop the art form of folding paper into pornographic shapes, I’m calling it Origasmi.
  • My Yom Kippur character: Atoney the Tiger. His product is Fasting Flakes, so terrible that it’s easy not to eat them. “They’re GRRRRR-oss!”
  • The job title obstetrician-gynecologist is nine syllables long, which is a mouthful, so we abbreviate it to OB-GYN. But when we say OB-GYN out loud, we pronounce each letter, for a total of five syllables. We could just say the two syllables “ob” and “gyn,” but we don’t. It’s things like this that just drive me crazy.
  • Semavore, n.: an eater of messages.
  • Belatedly realizing I’ve liked Anna Kendrick in everything I’ve seen her in.
  • Dear GOP, The way it works is, if a law you don’t like passes, you write another law repealing it and try to pass that. What you don’t do is shut down MY government and wreck MY country’s credit. Hope this helps, – Bob
  • You know how a song sometimes gets stuck in your head? Right now I can’t stop hearing the sound of NPR reporter Mandalit Del Barco saying her name as she ends a report and signs off.
  • A greater proportion than ever before of household timekeeping devices can adjust themselves to and from Daylight Savings Time automatically. This only produces a creeping contempt for the ones that cannot.
  • Cut oranges into sections; dice each section; place in dishes. Split English muffins, place in cold toaster oven. Place Costco precooked bacon strips on paper towels on microwave-safe plate. Preheat griddle. Measure pancake mix, water, and milk into bowl. Mix. Turn on toaster oven. Spoon pancake batter onto griddle. Place forks, knives, butter, syrup, and dishes with diced orange sections on table. Flip pancakes. Microwave bacon. Place pancakes, English muffins, and bacon on plates. Place plates on table. Presto: breakfast for four boys (two Glicksteins and two sleepover guests).
  • After seeing Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 a few days ago, the kids have been on the lookout for pun-making opportunities. So when Archer and I were in the kitchen recently and we both injured ourselves trying to open a tight jar lid, and even the tight-jar-lid-opening tool could barely do the job, Archer summed it up like this: “Well, _that_ was… screwed up.”
  • “Thomas Hobbes and Charles Darwin were nice men whose names became nasty adjectives. No one wants to live in a world that is Hobbesian or Darwinian (not to mention Malthusian, Machiavellian, or Orwellian).” -Steven Pinker, _The Better Angels of Our Nature_
  • After today, Andrea Glickstein and I will never again be able to say that we’ve been sweethearts for less than a quarter of a century.
  • Enchanted. Brave. Tangled. Frozen. Wondering when the current vogue for one-word adjectives as the titles of Disney movies will end. I blame Lost (another Disney production).
  • I’ve seen The Sting any number of times; and I’m the former Quotes Editor of the IMDb, with (what I like to think of as) a special ear for movie dialog. But it took Jonah to notice, when we watched it last night, that Paul Newman uses the phrase “two, three hundred” twice to estimate a number of guys. Proud of my boy.
  • [Christmas morning.] Good morning, and merry Christmas! I am enjoying the half hour of caffeination time that I negotiated with my kids last night before the wrapping-paper carnage begins.

Sandwich Club!

Every year I wonder whether I’ve finally exhausted my supply of these. And so far every year the answer has been, “Not yet!”

You better not eat
Not even a bite
You’re going to want a
Good appetite
Sandwich Club® is coming to town

We’re making a list
Of cheeses and breads
Seasonings, cold cuts
Toppings and spreads
Sandwich Club® is coming to town

Our tuna salad’s tasty
Our salami’s nitrate-free
Our Sandwich Club Club Sandwich® is always

So whether you want
A “grinder” or “sub”
Or “hero” or “hoagie”
Come Join The Club®
Sandwich Club® is coming to town

For a limited time, kids under 12 get a free King Of Clubs® crown!


Wit remit

2012: the year in Facebook status updates. (Previously: 1, 2.)

  • [After a visit to New York.] If I lived in Manhattan I’d eat at Grey’s Papaya for lunch every goddamned day.
  • Is it my imagination, or did bananas used to be easier to begin peeling?
  • Who is the mad genius who first came up with chicken-fried bacon?
  • Tonight I had the opportunity to say, “I remember Husker Du.” But no one got the joke.
  • Once again I am near a drug store and can’t for the life of me remember what I’m supposed to pick up at the drugstore.
  • When I shave, the beard goes first, then the mustache. The sides of the mustache go before the middle. There’s always a moment of micropanic: “If I’m interrupted RIGHT NOW, I’ll look like Hitler.”
  • The Arby’s on El Camino in South San Francisco is straight out of a David Lynch movie.
  • When I start a band, our first album will be called, “Reboot the Franchise.”
  • Of all the songs to get stuck in my head — “Non Dimenticar”? Really?
  • If I ever open a beauty salon, I’m calling it Fiat Looks.
  • Is anyone else troubled by the fact that Anonymous is now a name?
  • Nothing against Donald Sutherland, but Robert Culp would have made a _perfect_ President Snow.
  • What are some things that have made you say, “Now I’ve seen everything”? For me, one was seeing competitive goat-pantying at the Arizona Gay Rodeo Association rodeo this past weekend. Yes: a team of two gay rodeo cowboys putting panties on a goat as fast as they can.
  • [When Rush Limbaugh called a woman a slut for wanting contraceptives covered by her health plan.] Outspoken conservative blowhard says something outrageous. Entire liberal world goes apeshit — playing right into his hand. What else is new.
    • I can just imagine Limbaugh’s latest performance review. “We haven’t had a major dust-up in a while, Rush. Come up with something quick, and it better be a good one.”
  • Here’s my problem with Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (besides too many colons in the title). The premise is, the team’s on a mission that goes horribly wrong, so they’re “disavowed” and are then completely on their own for completing it, as if that’s a big deal. But that’s the normal state of affairs for the Impossible Mission Force. “If any of your team is caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions” means you’re ALREADY ON YOUR OWN.
  • I spent decades joking that I ought to start needing glasses any day now, like all the other people around me who spend all their time on computers. Now that I finally actually _do_ need glasses, I’m experiencing outrage every time I can’t see something clearly just by pointing my eyes at it like I’ve always done.
  • Though Geraldine played hard to get, Geraldo knew he’d woo her yet.
  • New txting shorthand: LOLMCWWU. (Laughing out loud making coworkers wonder what’s up.) Help spread it!
  • Lessons of middle age: you can eat after 9pm, or you can sleep through the night, but not both.
  • Paid for coffee and croissant at Peet’s with my phone. Magic! Japan says: welcome to the 90’s.
  • Today’s puzzle-of-the-day-calendar puzzle was an algebra word problem: some friends have to chip in for a cake, but then some back out and the remaining friends have to pay more, etc. I read it to my kids and asked, “Does either of you know how to approach this problem?” Archer didn’t miss a beat: “Sneak up on it from behind.”
  • Nowadays every night / Flashes by at the speed of light
  • I’m a muppet of a man [Followed by one of my favorite-ever status replies: “I KNEW it!”]
  • I holler, you holler, we all holler for challah bread.
  • The latest craze at home: vintage Gilligan’s Island episodes on Amazon Prime. I didn’t remember just how sweet Mary Ann was on Gilligan, or how much Ginger teased the Professor. Hot stuff!
  • The eternal paradox: the number of different keys in which a group of people sing Happy Birthday together is always greater than the number of people singing.
  • The law of conservation of behavior: When one child is in big trouble, the other one behaves himself really well.
  • Five years no mom.
  • Of course I’m thrilled that Obama came out in support of gay marriage. But if he fails to tie that support to a broader narrative about fairness and justice, he’ll be missing a real opportunity to educate a nation that wouldn’t recognize civics if it ran up and bit them on the ass.
  • Thanks Joss, that was awesome.
  • I was deeply unhappy after seeing 2010’s deplorable “Piranha 3D.” But I gotta hand it to the filmmakers, they got the sequel name right: “Piranha 3DD.”
  • A paradox: the man who knows he’s no better than anyone else, actually is.
  • Folding cardboard “gable-top” milk and juice cartons: They worked fine for generations, and were biodegradable to boot. Adding a plastic spout to them is like mounting a steering wheel on the back of a horse’s head. Yes, it works; yes, it makes one device resemble a similar but more modern one. But what problem does it solve, exactly?
  • Superficially, Moonrise Kingdom sounds a lot like 1979’s Rich Kids: 12-year-old lovers spy on/flee from clueless parents whose relationships are in shambles.
  • Every Tuesday there’s a meeting. If the president names someone at that meeting, that person dies. Tell me again why we rebelled against King George III?
  • Goodbye Ray Bradbury. Thanks for the mind-expanding dreams and nightmares both.
  • [For my nephew.] Your twenty-first birthday today! / But drinking would be so cliche / So I recommend / Surprising your friends / By having a cafe au lait
  • I keep waiting for star systems to start slipping through the fingers of the tightening grip of conservatism, and it keeps not happening.
  • “I know all about yer standards and if ye don’t mind my sayin’ so there’s not a man alive who could hope to measure up to that blend o’ Paul Bunyan, Saint Pat, and Noah Webster ye’ve concocted for yerself out o’ yer Irish imagination, yer Iowa stubbornness, and yer liberry full o’ books.”
  • Two episodes in on “The Legend of Korra” (on Amazon Instant Video). To my pleasant surprise it is shaping up to be a worthy successor to “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
  • Prometheus: among the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I don’t get that many date nights with the wife. Why was I not duly and unambiguously warned? Film critique profession, you have failed me.
  • [For my niece.] Birthday limerick! “There once was a girl named Mckenna / Who wanted to visit Vienna / The airfare was high / So rather than fly / She sent herself there by antenna.” Happy birthday Mckenna!
  • A couple of days ago, Andrea did something out of character for her: she started humming a TV theme song. It was the theme from The Andy Griffith Show. Today Andy Griffith died. For $50,000 she will hum another TV theme song of your choice.
  • Saw Rocky again last night, first time in forever. No wonder it launched Stallone into stardom. Considering what followed, it’s a surprisingly sincere, authentic, big-hearted character drama. Everything’s fresh, nothing’s cliche (yet). The best friend is actually a jerk. The slimy loan shark is actually sympathetic. The wise old trainer is actually just an embittered opportunist. Even the training montage isn’t just a training montage — it was THE ORIGINAL training montage, included because it helped show character development, not depict mere training like all the training montages that have come since (including in Rocky sequels).
  • Goodbye to Donald Sobol, the man who taught me that opposite faces on a standard die always add up to 7 (and who figured out how to hang a mystery on that fact).
  • This must be a milestone of some sort: while Jonah was drinking a glass of milk yesterday, Archer got him to spit it onto the table with the well-timed display of his cartoon drawing “lady with big naked boobs.”
  • All those damn seeds in my teeth. How does anyone like raspberries?
  • [After the movie-theater shooting spree in Colorado.] One of the great sorrows of life is having to learn how to live in a world where events like the Aurora shooting not only can happen, but do with some regularity.
  • No one is allowed to make movie sequels ever, except for James Cameron and Christopher Nolan.
  • [More about Aurora.] I have a GREAT idea. Every now and then, when a handful of our young people are senselessly murdered and maimed, let’s give the killer all the notoriety he was seeking, let’s utter the same platitudes and rote expressions of grief as the last time, and let’s change nothing at all. Because America’s perfect just as it is!
  • How many lovely afternoon naps have been ruined by a telemarketer or a wrong number? And yet do I ever silence the ringer? No, of course not, because that would mean I was actually thinking.
    • It’s too much to hope that if I’m thinking enough to silence the ringer before my next afternoon nap, I will also be thinking enough to turn it back on when I wake up.
  • Thanks Suzanne Glickstein, you were right: Safety Not Guaranteed was a great movie.
  • Oh my God does “Weird Al” Yankovic put on a good show.
  • Archer just performed as Don John in Act I, Scene 3 of Much Ado About Nothing at the conclusion of three weeks of Shakespeare camp. He was amazing.
  • The word “iconic” is hereby off limits. You all just can’t be trusted with it.
  • [After watching the season 5 episode, “Dead Freight.”] The writers of Breaking Bad are twisted and brilliant.
  • Have seen all three of the Marin Shakespeare Company’s productions for this season (kids too!) and have loved them so much we’re about to see one of them again.
  • “There _is_ no William Windom.” “DON’T YOU THINK I KNOW THAT? THERE WAS, BUT NOT ANYMORE!”
  • In. Stop. Park. Walk. Yield. Enter. Exit. One way. Jane Street. Jones Street. Park Avenue. No right turn. No left turn. What can he do? Gas. Car wash. Subway. Don’t walk. No parking. Tow-away zone. Uptown. Downtown. First Avenue. Home sweet home!
  • Recently I was craving a bottle of beer, only the phrase that kept popping into my head was the old-timey expression, “I could murder a bottle of beer.” What’s up with that?
  • If I ever open a pho restaurant, I’m going to call it Pho-nom-e-nom.
  • [After reading the Vanity Fair article about the stunning craziness surrounding Tom Cruise and his marriages.] Just imagine all the stories about Scientology that don’t leak.
  • “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips.
  • One great thing about the vastness of space: years and years of “Voyager nearing the edge of the solar system” articles, and all of them are right.
  • Huh. Varicose veins. Getting older is awesome. [Andrea later informed me they’re merely spider veins.]
  • Since hearing the news about Neil Armstrong I have had an irresistible craving for Tang.
  • [On 9/11/2012.]A detail I remember from 9/11/2001: a majority (or so it seemed) of the eyewitnesses lacked any language for describing the sight of the catastrophe other than variations of, “It was just like a movie.”
  • [For my friend Joelle.] I wanted to write something clever for your birthday but couldn’t think of anything. J’oh well.
  • The BBC’s “Sherlock,” apart from being excellent in itself, really rewards viewers who are familiar with the original canon.
  • Even an outlandish premise can make for a good movie, if the internal logic is coherent and the other elements add up; and I’m a willing suspender of disbelief. Afterward, if the movie was crap, I will gladly blame its stupid premise if it’s warranted; but it’s the rare film whose premise I can’t grant up front. So help me, I just cannot make myself pretend to believe in cars and trucks that turn into giant battling anthropomorphic robots. [Followed by another great status reply: “But they turn into giant robots that fight! Did you not get that?”]
  • Which one of us is the one we can’t trust? You say “I think it’s you,” but I don’t agree with that.
  • Earlier, someone asked me if today’s date was the fourth of October. In confirming that it was, I failed to answer, “10-4.” #regret
  • The International terminal at San Francisco Airport has six main entrances. They are prominently labeled “DOOR 01” through “DOOR 06.” What exactly are the leading zeroes accomplishing there?
  • Guys: When you get a Facebook friend request from a hot-looking woman you don’t know, whose Friends List is all men, and you accept it, be aware that the Friends List is really a gallery of pathetic losers, and now you’re on it too.
  • In 1988, I was annoyed that the movie “Beetlejuice” used dumbed-down spelling in its title because audiences would have had no idea how to pronounce Betelgeuse. Now I work for “Google.”
  • [On my birthday.] So this is 46. I have GOT to learn to stop asking my knees to do things they haven’t been capable of for years.
  • [Also on my birthday: the Giants won the pennant.] What a nice birthday gift the Giants just gave to me, personally!
  • Everyone who knows comedy agrees that Bob Newhart was a groundbreaking comic genius. That may be true, and I have my own fond memories of being entertained by him, but don’t make the mistake I made, of putting those memories to the test by watching a 1972 episode of The Bob Newhart Show. Unwatchable with 2012 eyes.
  • My most vivid fantasy is to spend a weekend with a reincarnated scientific luminary from the past, bringing him up to date on advances in science and technology that he’s missed. Does that make me weird?
  • With John Michael Higgins’ performance in Pitch Perfect, this generation has finally found its Fred Willard.
  • [Birthday limerick for my friend Greg.] “About a fine fellow named Greg / Folks said he’s a pretty good egg / There most men would end / But women append: / I wish he would show some more leg.”
  • [Hurricane Sandy struck while my sister Suzanne was visiting from NY.] It’s Suzanne’s birthday, and if you ever doubted how awesome my sister is, I direct your attention to the tantrum that New York is throwing due to her absence for a mere day. Other people leave the city now and then, and they don’t shut down the subway!
  • [On Suzanne’s birthday.] The Giants won the pennant for my birthday. They won the World Series for Suzanne Glickstein’s birthday. Happy birthday, sis!
  • [After Disney acquired LucasArts.] OK Disney, this is your big chance to get on the fans’ good side. GREEDO DID NOT SHOOT FIRST. Make it right. The power is yours.
  • Stupid Subway. I asked for a 6″ Cold Cut Combo with mustard, mayo, and lettuce, not a 6″ Cold Cut Combo with mustard, mayo, lettuce, and bacteria.
  • [In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.] In nine months there are going to be so many babies.
  • [Election day.] Think of that big idiot you know, the one with the deplorable politics. The responsibility for canceling out that dummy’s misguided vote — by casting your own tomorrow — is yours and yours alone. Everyone else has their own idiot to cancel.
  • [The next day.] It’s almost like the whole campaign never happened. (*checks shower for Patrick Duffy*)
  • [Hostess bankruptcy.] Be honest. How many Twinkies have you bought lately? It’s all your fault.
  • [Almost identical to a sentiment posted earlier in the year. I must have really meant it.] Opportunities for sleeping in are so few. You’d think I’d have learned by now to unplug the phone before bed.
  • I know more than I ever cared or expected to know about Transformers — names, personalities, capabilities — and it occurred to me, this is not very different from the days I knew more than I ever cared or expected to know about Thomas the Tank Engine. Transforming trainbots battling for control of the island of Sodor — that’s something I’d pay to see.
    • Sir Tophamus Hattron: “You have caused confusion and delay. Prepare to be destroyed!”
  • That frisson of outrage when Angry Birds ends your level just as the last pig is about to fall.
  • Help me, children of the 70’s: a memory popped into my head today of a watery orange drink we used to get all the time from the school cafeteria and/or ice cream trucks. It wasn’t orange juice, it wasn’t Tang, and it wasn’t soda. It probably came in half-pint cartons. What was it? [One friend came through: It was Sun-Dew. Another replied, “I just had a total sense memory when I read the name Sun-Dew. It was not a good feeling.”]
  • I am below [symbolic weight threshold] for the first time in years. Eliminating sweets, soda, and salty snacks actually works — like, immediately. Who knew?
  • Just spent a fair chunk of my Sunday going back through the Facebook timeline of Steven Stern, curator par excellence, building a YouTube playlist out of all the videos he’s ever shared.
  • [After the shooting spree in Newtown, Connecticut.] Back-of-the-envelope calculation: if the federal government offered to purchase every privately owned firearm for its fair market value plus $1,000, and if 50% of gun owners took advantage of this offer, it would cost about 100 billion dollars, or about 11% of what we already spend on national security.
  • [More about Newtown.] Somewhere in America, right now, NRA lobbyists are hard at work, calculating how to contain the damage, keep lawmakers in line, and fan the suspicious belligerence of their base.
    • That they are in crisis mode right now is a testament to the great job they did last time around.
  • Today I am fully one month ahead-of-plan toward my weight-loss goal. I am *not* going to celebrate with a cupcake.
  • All these interview candidates with impressive CS degrees and high-powered-sounding programming jobs at big companies you’ve heard of, and barely one in twenty can code worth a damn.
    • …which is what I call “job security.”
  • Here’s what bothers me about the latest idea in pop cosmology: that we’re living inside a giant computer simulation. First, it suffers from if-the-only-tool-you-have-is-a-hammer problem: in our modern age we are inclined to see computers everywhere. But more importantly, it does nothing to answer the question, “What is the nature of reality?” I mean, if _our_ reality is in some cosmic information processing device somewhere, it only begs the question, what is the nature of the reality containing that device?
  • I’m not the same man I used to be. Time was, the line from It’s a Wonderful Life that best spoke to me was George Bailey railing against the forces keeping him in Bedford Falls: “I want to do what *I* want to do!” Now, merely contemplating watching that movie again, the thought of hearing Mary say, “Remember the night we broke the windows in this old house? This is what I wished for” causes my throat to close right up and my vision to go all watery. I blame Andrea Glickstein.
  • Pendiculating.
  • [On 12/21/2012, which we now know wasn’t the end of the world.] Eating like there is a tomorrow.
  • It is better to give than to receive. Proof: as happy as my childhood memories of Christmas are, they’re nothing compared to the feeling I get from making new happy childhood Christmas memories for my kids.

Sand two glosses

Ewe bed err war shout
Ewe bed err knock rye
Ewe bed err notch out
I’m telling you eye
Sand two glosses car mint to town

He’s may king’ll list
Shaking it wise
Khan a fine tout who’s
Gnaw tea and ice
Sand two glosses car mint to town

He seize hue in yours leaping
He no swan euro ache
He no sieve you’ve bin batter could
Soapy good fur could nose ache

Ewe bed err war shout
Ewe bed err knock rye
Ewe bed err notch out
I’m telling you eye
Sand two glosses car mint to town