January 2013

Long Term Storage

Ripley Scooting

Ripley’s first day of pre-school is tomorrow. I think this is a big milestone as far as growing up goes.

My oldest memories date back to being in pre-school. My oldest real memories anyway, of actually doing things. I have flashes of images or of someone saying something, or being somewhere that might be older than that, but I actually remember doing things when I was in preschool. I remember an art class making bowls and self portrait figures out of clay. Apparently there was some kurfuffle because I sculpted myself naked and hadn’t skimped on the twig and berries. I think my mom actually still has those things in a box some where. Speaking of twigs, I remember playing outside of a classroom in a tent/igloo thing that someone had fashioned out of sticks and leaves. I remember climbing through these damp leaves in what I probably thought was a magnificent fort but was probably just a pile of yard scraps filled with worms and begging my father to come join me inside and him standing outside of it wanting nothing to do with it. He might have even been annoyed as he was probably there to pick me up and I was having too much fun playing to consent to leaving.

I remember the smell of the kiln in that art studio, I remember the main hall/theater where we’d go for music classes and the piano there that our teacher would play and sing songs to us. I remember the slope of the hillside behind the building and how much of an adventure it seemed to me at the time to go down the side of the building that didn’t have the nice path way. I remember being really happy there.

I remember even more from the following year – I went to the same school for pre-k and kindergarten but the classes were on opposite sides of the campus. Ha. Campus. It was a collection of converted bars with a little courtyard in the middle. Opposite sides of the property. That makes more sense. Very little kids on one side, slightly older kids on the other with lots of play time in the middle with everyone. I wrote about an experience I had with one of the even older kids a while ago and I’m realizing now that Ripley is only a year or so away from being the same age as I was when that was all happening.

I say that because until now I’ve had no idea what if anything he’ll remember. I figured it’s all kind of a blur. Will he remember living in Singapore or Paris? Probably not. Will he remember last December in Vienna? Maybe? But I know that over the next year some of the stuff is going to seriously stick – in detail – and he’ll take it with him the rest of his life. I think about that and I think about what I can do to make sure that he is as happy as I remember being and that he only has awesome memories burned into that permanent storage.

I don’t want him to remember me ever being annoyed with him.

I’ll never refuse to play in the leaves with him.


Used to be there was something exciting about discovering music. It was a challenge, and an accomplishment. It was something exciting and to be proud of. I’ve been talking about this a lot, and telling these stories because it’s something that actually means a lot to me.

Growing up in Florida and being into punk rock, finding the new stuff that I would be into wasn’t easy at all. Or rather, it became easy through a set of practices but at face value was next to impossible. I live in Bradenton and if I wanted to buy records in person there were exactly two stores that I could consider. Daddy Kool (which was in Bradenton originally but moved to Sarasota pretty early on) and Alternative Records in Tampa. Both of these were an hour away all things considered. Take into account that at this time I was also not yet driving, so getting anywhere relied on organizing a ride with someone else. Anyway, once I actually got to either of these places – ideally on Tuesday as that’s when new records came out – I’d start flipping through records. Labels were a huge part of this. They were almost curators. You could generally be safe picking up a record by a band you’d never heard of if they were on a label that had some bands you knew you liked already. If Revelation put out a new 7″ I’d buy it without ever hearing it and know that I wouldn’t be disappointed. But so would everyone else, so that was obvious.

What was less obvious and often the source of some real gems was thanks lists. Every record came with liner notes – lyrics, credits and a thanks list. In punk rock you would get no where if not for your friends and the way to repay those friends was a mention in the thanks list. In fact not mentioning people could be seen as a real diss. (There are records that I’m not thanked on that I’m still bummed about.) So if I liked a band I’d read their thanks list and see what other bands they thanked. These were likely bands they had played with or bands that their friends were in. Maybe bands they lived with or shared a practice space with. I’d write down the names of those bands and then go to the folks at these record stores and ask them to track down any music by these bands. They’d make some phone calls, and in 2-3 weeks – if I was lucky – a 7″ or cassette would show up with some songs from one of these bands. Sometimes those songs would be amazing.

After that I’d make mix tapes of new stuff I’d found and give them to friends, asking in turn for mix tapes of stuff they’d discovered. Some of the most influential bands in my entire life I learned about from these mix tapes. Knowing about the new stuff meant you’d get the records first, and in the world of limited pressingings due to limited budgets, if there are only 500 copies of a 7″ made ever – you might not have a second chance to get something. And if you heard that a band was good but couldn’t get the record, you might never get to hear those songs. It took me 5 years to get the first Shudder To Think album – I hunted for it relentlessly – and I’d never once heard the songs on it. I knew I liked the band, I knew the record existed, but there was no way to hear the songs unless I had the record. It was incredibly rare and I didn’t know anyone who had it. When I finally got it and got home and pulled the record out to listen to it, I don’t even remember how many friends had rushed over to hear it for the first time as well. A lot for sure.

So it was a big deal to know about new stuff. Hip hop and death metal (the soundtracks to my youth) were similar. And there was some serious feelings of ownership when you found something first and then got to be the one to introduce all your friends to it. There was some real skill and value in being that guy.

Now, any band we talk about you can hear online in seconds. There are a million options. That impossible to find Shudder To Think album? It’s all over YouTube. Anything you want is within reach. Which is great, but also not so great. The thrill of finding something new and awesome is gone. The sweet payoff of finding something you knew about but had never had access to is gone. Everything is available.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. How that excitement has been lost, and how it could be regained. How it could be exciting again. How it could be special. I’m not sure I have the answers, but I have some ideas…

Just Another Crowd

Part of deciding to put things online again requires sorting of where to put those things. One thing that I used to put on my blog way back in the day were links to things I was reading or to articles that had caught my eye for one reason or another. Bookmarking with delicious, sharing on google reader, tweeting the links and even posting them to Tumblr eventually took over this because it seemed easier, but upon talking to people for a while I realized it was easier for me, easier for others if they were paying attention right at that moment but much more difficult to go back and look something up later.

Yesterday in a conversation about this John Bracken said, jokingly I assume, that he’d subscribe to a mailing list of those links if I put something together. I’d been thinking about that for a while but that sort of gave me the nudge to go ahead and give it a shot. So I present, for your consideration, my new mailing list:

Just Another Crowd

This will be a daily, or daily-ish (or weekly depending) announcement only email list. It’ll collect the links I’ve posted throughout the day(s) from twitter, tumblr, google+, etc all into one place and I’ll aim to give a little bit of commentary about them as well. Maybe even some links I didn’t post elsewhere, we’ll just have to see. I make no promises to the topics, this will very literally be anything that caught my attention so could relate to politics or food or clothes or philosophy or rights or coffee or whatever. Sometimes links will be to news articles, sometimes to websites or companies.

This is an experiment, but I think it could be fun. We’ll see. Feel free to sign up if that sounds interesting.

And because I’m incapable of doing anything that doesn’t reference something else important to me…


I was lucky enough to go to an all day lecture by Edward Tufte today in Los Angeles. I wish that had been mandatory for anyone I work with or anyone who creates content that I consume. So full of gems. One of his reoccurring themes was that you should respect your users, not treat them like idiots. Chip Kidd makes this same point in his TED talk from last year. I love this, as it’s something I’ve run head to head with more than one boss about over the years. I figure, if someone is smart enough to make it to your site/talk/whatever then you should give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they aren’t idiots. Upper management hasn’t always agreed with me on that, which is in part why I no longer put myself in a position of answering to upper management.

The whole idea of making assumptions about your audience is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. When I started blogging (though it wasn’t yet called blogging) back in the 90’s I took a frequent position that I knew more about something than the people who were reading it. I positioned myself as an authority. I wasn’t an authority on anything by the way, but I was in my 20’s and we all know how that works. Over the years I became less confident in my know-it-all-ness and more and more often assumed that everyone out there already knew about whatever I was thinking of writing about so why should I bother writing about it. It was a pretty good excuse to use to justify not putting myself out there. When ever I did get inspired to write I paid extra careful attention to how I positioned myself when I did write, and that I made it clear I was just writing about my own take on something. Again, that was my excuse and it worked really well as you can tell by the frequent lack of writing here over the last few years.

I thought about this a lot in 2012 and kind of had a big talk with myself towards the end of the year. I basically told myself that crappy excuses like this won’t hold up anymore. I trust that the people who read my site are not idiots because saying idiots read my site would say more about me than them, but also that people aren’t reading my site to learn some exclusive bit of information that I’m expected to deliver expertly – they are reading it because they want to read my take on something. Or my opinion about something. Or just see what I happen to be thinking. And that’s good. That’s enough. That’s why I want to write in the first place, because maybe something I have to say will be interesting to someone. Not that I’m the ultimate authority or the speediest news wire, just be somewhat interesting.

So that’s part of what is behind this resurgence. I’m trying to ignore the little “you aren’t good enough, no one cares” voices and accept that even when I don’t hear them, the little “that’s interesting, glad you wrote it down to share with me” voices are out there too.


Earlier tonight I asked Twitter what I should blog about. The first reply I got was “failure.” On it’s own I don’t know that I would have considered this, but one of the following replies I got was “the experience of completion, the exaltation of closure and the excitement of moving on to your next big thing?” OK, now this is interesting. Assuming that someone wouldn’t suggest I write about something I didn’t have any experience with, this is some pretty opposite end of the spectrum shit right here. One guy thinks I have a lot to say about failure and the other thinks I might wax poetic about success.

The truth is, I’m not sure I know anything about either of those things. I’ve never considered anything I’ve done a failure or a success. I don’t have some massive bankruptcy everything up in flames ending that could unquestionably be called a failure nor any cash out and be financially independent for the rest of my life I’d be an asshole not to consider it a success. The things that haven’t ended well still did really great things that I’m proud of. The things that didn’t end, probably could have been done better.

It’s perspective.

Where you stand makes all the difference.

Some people are perched in such a way that they think whatever they touch is golden. And sometimes they convince everyone else to view things from their vantage point. Others might never see anything as anything but a loss. I have those kinds of people in my family. Growing up I’d look at one relative with incredibly jealousy because everything they did was awesome. Everything. And they wanted to make sure you knew it. And I’d shrink up in anticipation of the things another relative would likely say anytime I knew she’d be around, because the world looked like a massive pile of shit to her and the only way she could seem to find some joy was to point out everyone else’s shortcomings.

Probably without realizing it, having those kinds of forces around me as a kid helped me try to find the the good in the bad, and the bad in the good. There’s nothing attractive to me in someone who constantly talks themselves up, or beats themselves down. I think for the vast majority of us out here in the world, we all frequently sit somewhere in the middle. And that’s OK.

I’ve always been attracted to this duality. Actually all kinds of duality, but the duality of humans specifically. Good people who do bad things. Bad people who do good things. I like this a lot. It’s complex. It’s fascinating. It’s relatable. Most people don’t feel like I do. At least I get the impression they don’t. They want someone to either be a hero or a villain. They want something to either be a failure or a success. But sometimes the road to failure is littered with tiny successes. It’s easy to only see the failure, but the right perspective will let you see the successes too. And that’s what enables you to keep going.

That’s what enables me to keep going at least.


Today I got nothing done. I had big plans but also no plans. That is, I had no plans for the day so I suspects that I’d get a lot of work done. That turned out not to be the case.

I slept in and then got up and made waffles for Tara and Ripley and then sat on the floor in Ripley’s room and played with him and his trains for a while and then went on a walk with them and got a drink from the new boba tea place around the corner (do not recommend) and then got some coffee from cog (do recommend) and then leisurely made our way back to the house and did more nothing. I planned to do things, I really did, but today ended up a fail.

And also a win.


That wasn’t fiction. I was actually sitting in the waiting room while my car was getting some required maintenance and thinking about what to write about and feeling a bit blocked and at the same time just being amazed at the characters in the room so I thought I’d just write out the scene as I saw it right in front of me. I don’t know if anyone thought it was interesting or not, but I wrote it so whatever.

I actually can’t write fiction, or rather I don’t understand how to do it. I’ve done it a few times with a collaborator where they throw out an idea and I riff on it with them and that kind of works but just thinking of a story from scratch has never been something I’ve been able to wrap my head around. One of the greatest writing books I’ve ever read is Steven King’s “On Writing” and in it he talks about how he has no idea where a story is going when he begins to write. He just has an initial idea – A story about a girl who doesn’t get along with people at school, a story about an evil clown, etc and just starts writing. When I read that I just stared at the page in complete shock for hours I’m sure. I don’t know if the idea of outlines and structure was just too beaten into me as a kid, but I have a terrible time trying to write something if I don’t know where it’s headed. In fact, I’ll often think about a piece I need to write for a while until I figure out what the direction (at least) or conclusion (more ideal) and will only then start actually writing it. I need a roadmap. I need to limit my options I guess. If anything can happen at any time then I just sit there paralyzed not being able to decide which is the best direction or if I’ll take three steps and then realize I made the wrong one two steps ago. I just don’t have the confidence there I suppose.

Not that I wan’t it, I mean, it wouldn’t be bad to have it, but I’m not trying to be a fiction writer so not being confident in my fiction isn’t really a big problem. I find the real world to be just as fucked up and worthy of observation as anything else. I think that’s why the fiction that I’m drawn to is the stuff that is most plausible. The things you could actually see happening. Once something gets too far fetched I’m out. If I think “this could never happen” then the likelihood that I’ll go back and read more of that story are slim.

So I guess the lesson is if you want me to read your super far fetched fiction make it a very, very short story.

Waiting Room

Keychains. Scented candles. Bumper stickers. Floor mats. Assorted cheap tools in vacuformed plastic hanging cards.

The coffee pot has been left on all day for years at a time. The burnt layer of bake on coffee crust is an inch thick, but no one seems to care as they refill their styrofoam cups from the pot one after another. Sugar. Powdered creamer. Plastic straw.

There are no shortage of snack for weary patrons, available for purchase of course. Most hilarious of which is the rack of ENERGY CLUB QUALITY SNACKS! THE SMART ALTERNATIVE! All graphics suggest this is the healthy stuff. The rest of the shop is filled with junk food but if you want a smart alternative while you wait, this is it. The gummy bears are flavored with “real fruit” – the glo-worms have 0g fat – the trail mix is “natural” though my definition of natural doesn’t include brightly colored candy coated m&m’s. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Every chair is full. Every eye is glassed over. It’s the usual suspects.

There’s the lady 3 sizes too large for the armchair she’s sitting in, wearing sweat pants that have been printed to look like denim and a black and white leopard print scarf that’s the size of a table cloth draped around her neck blending almost seemlessly with krinly product filled mountain of hair. She hasn’t looked up from her blackberry once. Continually clicking its surface with her lee press on purple sparkle nails.

Next to her is the older asian guy, white hair and spotted skin, who is using a vons grocery store plastic bag as a tote, filled with paperwork and folders, maybe some keys and an old style brick of a garage door opener. This isn’t the first day he’s used this bag for this purpose judging by the wear and holes in the corners. His hiking boots are less than apropriate for sitting in a tiled waiting room for hours on end and he knows it. Keeps looking at his watch. Has some place else to be. He’s sitting directly across from the TV but in the hour I’ve been been here he hasn’t looked at it once. Something distant off in space has his attention.