The week that was

Ann Arbor, Michigan became the latest US city (after Denver, Oakland, and Santa Cruz) to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms.

UC Berkeley announced the opening of the Center for the Science of Psychedelics.

A California man was sentenced to six years in prison for sending almost two pounds of meth inside a piñata.

You can now buy face masks from a vending machine thanks to Portland-based footwear maker Keen. Several designs are stocked including designs from the late-Jerry Garcia.

Japanese light manufacturer Ushio has developed a coronavirus-killing UV light that does not harm humans.

Australians are so desperate to go somewhere that Qantas is selling out “Flights to Nowhere” to take citizens on a 7-hour loop around the country. So popular are these flights they are selling out in just 10 minutes.

After record wildfires set his state on fire, California governor Gavin Newsom announced the state will phase out sales of new, gasoline-powered cars by 2035. He signed the order on the hood of a cherry red, electric Ford Mustang.

The NFL Media audio engineer turned up the fake booing during their recent 37-19 loss at a recent Philadelphia Eagles home game. Fans agreed this made the game, played to an empty Lincoln Field, sound even more true-to-life.

After 18 months of a painstaking process of elimination, villagers in a remote town in Wales know why the entire town’s internet connection goes offline like clockwork. Every day at 7am one of the villagers would switch on their old TV which would in-turn knock out broadband for the entire village. (Update: It was Mr. & Mrs. Rees who were innocently tuning into Piers Morgan.)

TWTW is a weekly collection of bits and pieces I run across each week while looking after things at SmartNews. Feel free to sign-up to get this via email, follow on Facebook, or forward to a friend.


The week that was

no filter photo by @jachristian

A farmer just 10 miles outside of Kenosha, Wisconsin (yes, that Kenosha) decided enough already with 2020 and turned his entire crop over to sunflowers.

My childhood nightmare just became product reality.

In Australia’s Queensland, COVID-19 restrictions put the kibosh on dancing at weddings but, strangely, allowed for “group sex at approved swinger clubs and adult parties.”

A transgender anarchist who recently won an un-contested GOP nomination for Sheriff on the platform slogan of “F— the Police” is turning to Go Fund Me to raise funds to fix her recently vandalized car.

Jimmy Carter not only confirmed long suspected rumors that he allowed Willie Nelson to spark one on the roof of the White House but that the president’s son Chip was getting baked with him.

Just in case you were wondering, yes, the Pentagon has a plan just in case there is a zombie apocalypse.

The Tiger King rivalry has moved over to e-commerce. Joe Exotic launched his Revenge line back in May and now Carol Baskin’s “Hey all you cool cats & kittens” facemasks are here.

40-year-old Lia Ditton pulled into Waikiki harbor after 86 days rowing solo from San Francisco. She was put up in a suite with a beautiful ocean view but demurely requested a room with a view of the mountains.

Stay safe y’all and see ya later California! By this time next week, I’ll be posting from NYC!

TWTW is a weekly collection of bits and pieces I run across each week while looking after things at SmartNews. Feel free to sign-up to get this via email or forward to a friend.


The week that was

Hundreds of people assembled at a German church to hear an organ change chords for the first time in nearly seven years. The church is 19 years into performing John Cage’s Organ/ASLSP (As Slow As Possible) and is due to finish the piece in the year 2640.

Looking to differentiate itself from other sushi outfits, one Nagoya proprietor has hit gold by offering macho sushi delivered by body builder trainers temporarily out of work because of gym shutdowns.

While we may not be able to attend a football game in person you’ll be glad to know that you can light some scented candles so you can experience the game in smell-o-rama. Choose from the no description need Jock Strap or $18 Nachos, or Hashtag Field Goals which smells like fresh cut grass.

A man blew the roof off his house while attempting to swat a fly. The BBC wryly notes, “the fate of the fly is not known.”

Another man saw to it that he could stand in a tub filled with ice cubes up to his shoulder for 2 hours and 30 minutes. Afterward he said the sun felt “really great” on his back.

The Ukrainian priest who called COVID19 “God’s punishment” for gay marriage has contracted said punishment.

In upstate New York, a drowning ex-drug addict kayaker was rescued by a passing Tiki Bar boat full of priests and seminarians from a local Catholic retreat.

It happened in 2018, now it’s happened in 2020. This time, the folks that sparked a massive wildfire may be on the hook for millions in damages.

Because it’s 2020 police are asking residents in Eastern Tennessee to be on the lookout for a missing tiger.

TWTW is a weekly collection of bits and pieces I run across each week while looking after things at SmartNews. Feel free to sign-up to get this via email or forward to a friend.


On Leaving California

It’d be easy to say that last week’s orange-colored skies were the final straw that told us it’s time to go but this move has been in the works for awhile and only in the past few weeks has become reality. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

For a couple years Izumi and I planned to sell the house and move once the kids up and left for college. Our house in Alameda is just too big for two people and a small dog and we live on a block too ideal for a family with small kids to keep it to ourselves. The house gained some value over the years as well which will allow us to pay off our children’s college debt.

So when our youngest started at college in August we began to inquire about selling the house. Things progressed rapidly from there and within a few weeks we completed the transaction, contacted the movers, and started the process of unloading years of stuff in preparation for moving into more modest quarters. 

George Carlin on stuff

The plan is to move to NYC. SmartNews has an office there and many of our publishing partners are based there so when things start to go back to normal it would make sense to be there. We would also be closer to the kids, who both go to school in Massachusetts, and they were both excited to the prospect of spending vacations in a bustling city. 

We leave in a few weeks. Because of COVID restrictions we wanted to limit the amount of flying back and forth looking at places so we’re not sure where we’re living beyond the 30-day furnished apartment we just reserved online. Come to think of it, this is how we moved to Alameda in 2004 and to Finland in 2010 so I guess this is just how we roll.

We’re planning on living in Manhattan. People are fleeing downtown so hopefully that will make it somewhat affordable. We’ll see when we get there. I am optimistic for the future. NYC may be down but I can never imagine it would be out. The spirit of the city is just too strong. 

If part of the plan was to keep Izumi busy so she wouldn’t get depressed being an empty-nester than I guess you can say it worked. She’s been a Tasmanian Devil packing what’s important and ruthless about pitching the rest. 

I will, of course, miss friends and family (bye Sis!) I leave behind. I came out to the Bay Area in 2004 because no one on the East Coast knew what I was talking about when I ranted about the transformational impact of blogging. I moved here to be around like-minded people and rode that wave to where I am today. Now everyone “blogs” on Facebook. and tech is making moves to set up in NYC anyway.

Thank you to my colleagues at SmartNews for their understanding and support that allowed me to make this move. I should mention we are hiring to find someone to fill my shoes and work on my team in the SF office so please reach out to me if you want to learn more. 

Izumi and I were born in Brooklyn so this move is like returning home in some ways. On my last trip to NYC I stayed in Brooklyn and spent the evenings riding a bike around the city looking for my old house. Like salmon swimming upstream, maybe we’re feeling a little nostalgic?

I think I read somewhere that Italians like to say that you should live your life in pursuit of experiences that will make for a good stories. Stay tuned as I have a feeling we’ll get a lot of stories out of this move. 


Modern Luddite’s Prayer

I found an old notebook of scribblings from a two week vacation taken in Paris around 2010. We were wonderfully disconnected from the internet and spent each morning at a museum or gallery and each afternoon on extended walks thru selected neighborhoods. As you can see, I took a grim view of technology when viewed from outside that bubble.

A bit over-dramatic but indulge me. This is what a couple of weeks in Paris will do to you.

The spindled algorithms of our time are optimizing the sinews of humanity. Gnashing life’s great works in the gears of its Engine. These are the dark Satanic Mills of our generation. Spitting out matchsticks of Knowledge that are mere sulfur-tipped flashes of attention-seeking factoids, no longer able to light the pyre of change to our mossy, over-grown minds deadened by years of trackpad-enabled twiddling.

We are addicted to the new of newsfeed but have lost the wisdom of perspective. Supplicants to the superior recall of the internet brain, we slavishly log time on the social treadmill with a thirst to be first for our friends and followers. Dark Times ahead if we continue to blindly submit to the false gods of Real-Time, PageRank and Likes.

Step away from your monitor, stop stroking your little glass-faced friend. Look into your neighbor’s eyes and peer into their soul. Smile to the passing stranger on the street and note them for who they are and how we are all connected. Embrace the warmth and smell of humanity. Live to create, not consume.


Incident in English 177

At UC Berkeley I took Literature of Philosophy which spent a lot of time debating the meaning of specific words and dissecting them ad infinitum. The final exam consisted of three questions, each one a paragraph long that took up half a page. You only had to answer one question but it took me a good hour to read through and comprehend each question before I could even pick which one I wanted to answer.

While cleaning things out my garage, I ran across an old journal with this passage that made be laugh, it sums up my experience at Cal Berkeley perfectly.

Prof. Banfield introduces Bertrand Russel’s Theory of Knowledge. She uses his example of the table using the table in the classroom for illustration. The table is your typical classroom table, linoleum top, chrome legs, standard academic affair. The class can only visually see three legs and Prof. Banfield posits that there is no proof to say that the fourth leg isn’t a grandly carved walnut late-Elizabethan leg, no proof that it is or is not . . . and to make her point she leans over and puts her weight on the corner. To her surprise, the table collapses and she falls to the ground in an ungraceful heap. The 4th leg was missing.

The entire class was silent, not knowing if we were to laugh or if this was part of her lesson plan. Turns out UC Berkeley facilities just gave Prof. Banfield a bum table. Take that Betrand Russel!


The week that was

Using more than 150,000 single-use plastic bottles, CalTrans and sustainable landscaping company TechniSoil repaved the first mile of recycled plastic highway on a state road anywhere in the U.S.

Apparently a “guy in a jetpack” was flying around buzzing landing airlines at LAX.

Last week a 3-year old girl was plucked out of the ocean floating on an inflatable winged unicorn. This week another 3-year old girl, this one in Taiwan, was swooped high up into the air when her legs became tangled in the tail end of a kite.

A 53-year old Long Island woman joined a team of gymnasts ranging in ages from 9 to 15 is now winning championships.

Short collection this week – busy on a new project and will share more later! Stay safe everyone!

TWTW is a weekly collection of bits and pieces I run across each week while looking after things at SmartNews. Feel free to sign-up to get this via email, follow on Facebook, or forward to a friend.

Current Events

Crazy Detail

In an interview with a level designer for the video game, Last of Us Part 2, we learn that one part of the game took a “solid two years” to build.

Near the end of the interview, Brown asks Hill roughly how long the entire sequence took to build from scratch and perfect. “Pretty much two solid years,” says Hill. “Pretty much the big secret for all Naughty Dog level design is just iteration and work. We have some fundamentals but there were some levels in this game that were redone about 25 times.”

The Last of Us Part 2’s Museum Level Took Two Years to Make