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Deadicated

Alex Wise is a professional musician (alexwise.com) and longtime Deadhead. As an accomplished guitarist, he listens to the music of the Grateful Dead with a careful ear for detail and can speak to the evolution of their style in a much more nuanced way than your average Deadhead.

Listening to Alex’s interview with Brokedown Podcast’s JM Hart is like listening to two baseball stat nerds get into the weeds on the specifics of the game. I love it. The cracks about Weir’s attempts at slide guitar are something that would make any member of this particular tribe smile.

If you have a passing interest in the the music of the Grateful Dead and wondered what all the fuss was about and how people can listen to so many different versions of Morning Dew, this podcast episode will unveil some of layers of that fan-hood.

The entire episode is above but the two get down to details at around 18:30.

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Walkin’ NYC

Did I mention that we’re walking the streets of Manhattan in order to get to know the neighborhoods? I use this iOS app called Trails to track where we go and then trace it old skool style with a sharpie onto a tourist map.

The nice thing about Trails is that it automatically logs everywhere we go so I can just put the phone in my pocket and go about our day. The location tracking doesn’t take as much battery on my iPhone XR as I thought but I do bring along an extra charged up external battery to top things up just in case.

One app that I also recommend is Urban Archive. They have a database of all the old buildings in NYC and using it, you can quickly lookup the history of buildings you see while walking around.

Here’s the master map with all the traces of where we’ve been so far since arriving on September 25th. Lots to still see (we’ve only spent a short time in Brooklyn) but it’s been a blast.

If there are particular walks you recommend, please add links in the comments!

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Talkin NYC

I can’t believe that New York City is my new home. We’re still nailing down details of a place to live (more on that later, don’t want to jinx it) staying in a furnished apartment in the meantime so it feels temporary.

But no. NYC is our home. Weird. I’m now one of youz guyz.

I’ve been trying to think of the best way to describe what living here is like, from a Californian point of view. Certainly people talk a lot more than back in Bay Area. Walking down the street is like an exercise in verbal river rafting. There’s no time to look down at your phone. Everyone has a quip or comment and you need to be fast with a witty reply to make a connection. Everyone is always, ON.

In this fast moving stream of conversations, whenever a group of New Yorkers gather for more than a few minutes, an instant community forms. This evening was a perfect example.

As you know, the pandemic limits the number of people that can be inside a shop at any one time. There is an amazing cheesemonger down the street, they’ve got cheeses from around the world and a chalkboard listing specials that they fly in each day for their customers. A sign out front that says no more than “two people or one group” at a time in the shop. Outside the store there are three people that don’t know each other, each waiting their turn to go in. As three individuals it’ll take more time to go in because that’s three separate groups.

A man is chatting with two women. Right as Izumi and I walk by I hear the man say,

Wanna be a group?

That phrase, right there, captured the perfect NY moment. A little eddy of inactivity shunted to the side of the overall flow of people walking by. Three people, milling around, waiting. There’s a problem. A restriction, a rule that is slowing their progress. A community forms – collective problem solving is put to work, they band together. Problem solved.

This is NYC. People of all types, strangers, reaching out to solve problems, together, with a laugh.

On a more serious note, we’re heading into what many are predicting will be a dark winter of the third wave. It’s going to be tough but that same resourcefulness from that vignette above gets force multiplied in times of crisis. The blackouts of 1977 and 2003, Hurricane Sandy, 9/11. New Yorkers rise to the occasion to meet the challenge, together.

NYC got walloped by the virus earlier in the year but they know what’s coming this time around and will face what’s coming with grit, camaraderie, and a sense of humor. I’m glad we got to experience the tail end of the Summer but am prepared for what’s coming.

Sign in SoHo paraphrases Queen’s We Will Rock You

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Kyrö Distillery

Kyrö Distillery – proudly Finnish

Friends from Finland shared this advert for Kyrö Distillery, a Finnish distillery, who gives us a master class at how to introduce the world to their unique line of products.

If you’re going to introduce a new Malt Rye Dairy Cream Whiskey to the world, there’s only one way to do it. With a naked man strolling around and staring straight at the camera in all earnestness.

Oh, and the story about five guys in a sauna dreaming up a business is true.

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Leaps of Faith

Two different perspectives on taking a leap. You never know what’s on the other side, sometimes you just gotta go for it.

Butterflies on a Ten Meter diving board in Sweden

12-year-old Sky Brown takes on Tony Hawk’s “mega ramp.”

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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. 

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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.

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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!

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Dean Elmore

Boston University’s Dean Elmore has the unenviable task of leading BU’s student population safely thru the pandemic. He is normally jolly and approachable and, when you meet him, his love of BU is plainly infectious.

Here he is taking the plunge into the Charles River after challenging at least 2,011 seniors (more than half the class) to donate to the 2011 Class Gift campaign.

But these are different times.

Today, Dean Elmore sent out a letter to the BU students reminding them of their responsibility to their fellow students. His letter was picked up in the local news which is how I found out about it. In it he makes very clear that, “if you host or attend a large off-campus or on-campus gathering, social or party, you will be suspended from Boston University.”

But he balanced his firmness with an aspirational challenge.

Like you, I’ve been cooped up and, sometimes, felt alone. That’s why I am excited to get reacquainted with my peoples – especially since they are close and not always on a screen. However, in seeing my friends, I’ve incorporated a lot more planning in my socializing to be more thoughtful, less hapless and more diligent about thinking about others. Our actions have consequences. We have got to use our collective power to maintain an environment where we can all live and learn. To succeed, we have to work together.

Boston University Dean of Student’s blog

As places of learning and innovation, colleges and universities will have to learn to live together during this pandemic. Students will create a culture and society that will works for them in our “new normal” and teach the rest of us how to go forward. 

Related, kinda:

New York Times is tracking coronavirus cases at all universities and colleges in the United States.

Also:

Boston University’s effort to stay on top of student testing was picked up on NBC News as well.
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Julia

First Day of School – 2007

Julia just graduated from high school. It was strangely anti-climactic. She put on her graduation regalia and headed out the door to meet a small group of classmates in Group 11 at the Alameda Theatre where they were ushered in, socially-distanced, and took the stage, one-by-one, to pick up a diploma and say a few words into a camera for a video that will be spliced together for family and friends. No pomp, just circumstance.

The Class of 2020 has been through a series of unique events as they made their way through the public school system here in Alameda. They grew up learning how to adapt.

Her class was the first seriously impacted at the local elementary school as overflow from the lottery system in San Francisco drove parents to the East Bay. In 2007 it was no longer sufficient to say you lived in the neighborhood to send your kids to the local school. For the first time, you had to get in line and spend the night in order to guarantee one of the coveted spots for your child in the kindergarten.

As Julia made her way to Lincoln Middle School, her class ended up being one of the last that took the trip out East to visit Washington DC as part of the Close-Up program. Julia took band where she played violin and was part of the color guard team with the marching band that took a trip to Disneyland where they marched down Main Street.

Julia playing violin

In high school, Julia’s interests turned to sports where she ramped up her passion for soccer. She had been playing club soccer for a couple of years and made the varsity team her freshman year. She also dug into leadership at the school where she served on the Spirit Committee and helped organize several school-wide events including a fund-raiser which raised thousands for families suffering after the fires in Paradise, California. She called the program Pennies for Paradise.

Julia played defense all four years

Alameda High School went through a number of physical upgrades while she attended. Seismic fences surrounded the old school building as the structure was deemed unsound. Over the four years Julia was there, major improvements were made and by her senior year, they finished with the classic structure you see in the photo below.

Julia in front of the newly renovated AHS – 2020
Julia was interviewed on the local radio station this morning.

She took an interest in Psychology to the point where she convinced enough classmates to join her and put together an AP Psychology course. This interest served to focus her college search which brought her to Clark University which is known for its Psychology Department.

So Julia starts at Clark University in Massachusetts next year. Izumi and I sat in on a Q&A session and learned a little about the school’s plans to get started in the Fall. They will do everything they can to get everyone together for in-person instruction but are also planning on an extended Winter Break (Nov 20 – Feb 15) during which courses will be taught remotely should there be a second outbreak of the Coronavirus.

Izumi and I have been touched with the school’s inclusive approach. Their admissions package included not only the usual information and schwag for Julia but also a nice letter from the president, welcoming us to the community.

Clark University welcome letter

I think she’ll be in good hands. Congratulations Julia, I’m so excited to see what you do next!