Conversations I’ll someday have with my daughter that will make little to no sense to her no matter how much I try to explain

"I remember the day we got cable"

"I remember the day I finally got broadband internet"

"The Safety Dance was the first 45 single I bought"

"My brother got one of the first CD players on our block"

"I owned many, many cassingles"

"For ten years, I watched a 19" TV from across a large room"

"I remember the Tears for Fears CD costing almost $20"

"My first cellphone charged you money just for keeping it turned on"

"I once delivered bundled newspapers as a kid, on my bike, and later in college, using my car"

"There was a time when you couldn't buy music digitally from any record label, but you could download it or convert your existing music for free"

"When I was 11, our phones had cords and you had to put them onto this device, then tell your Commodore computer to call Compuserve, and it was basically just a crappy text-based encyclopedia and a private message system"

Thoughts from the bottom of a ditch after veering off the road while reading email on my iPhone while riding my road bike near a farm

Man, there sure are a lot of beer bottles and cans down here.

If my 18 year old self could see me today at 36, I'm sure he'd want to know why I'm still doing stupid shit like getting so engrossed with my phone that I actually did this.

Thank god I didn't break anything on my bike or myself.

I wonder if I could condense this stupid moment to 140 characters?

Perchance to dream

Slug, originally uploaded by visualdensity.

I had a dream last night that we solved the energy crisis by forcing the animal kingdom to create energy for us, but the trick was picking an animal ugly and unlikeable enough that the least number of people opposed the enslavement. So in the end, we had these enormous generators pushed by massive armies of slugs on land and eels in the water that created the entire world's energy needs.

There were of course, slug and eel appreciation societies that picketed the energy companies but most people didn't mind because they hated the selected animals so much.

The Culture War on Halloween

The culture war on Halloween, originally uploaded by mathowie.

Halloween is a time-honored holiday steeped in the traditions of sharing with your neighbor, celebrating childhood with candy and decorations, and generally having a fun time as the days begin to grow shorter.

There is also a culture war that seeks to end this traditional holiday.

Like the above photograph shows, several local churches near me are throwing parties aimed at avoiding this holiday of giving and sharing with thy neighbors, going by the euphemistic term "Fall Family Festival." They offer treats, fun, and games, but they just so happen to throw them on October 31st, during the prime evening trick or treating hours.

Make no mistake, no matter how many years (Norman Rockwell anyone?) Halloween has existed, no matter how harmless toddlers dressed as ghosts and princesses are, no matter, there is spiritual conspiracy behind this new found war on Halloween and it needs to stop. I fear the day is coming when we won't be able to display our Jack O'Lanterns in the town square, when we will be called names for trying to share real American treats like Crackerjack and carmel-covered apples, and when our sons and daughters will ask us why we can't go out and share candy with our beloved neighbors anymore.

We can't let this happen. Heroes, join me in opposing these PC-thugs and their so-called "Fall Family Festivals." This is a nation with a sweet tooth, our founding fathers ate candy (why else would they have wooden teeth?), and your children and grandchildren should too. Keep candy in Halloween!

TLFT*: Michael Phelps

Watching some recent olympic track and field events still sitting on TiVo, I’m finally starting to understand how amazing it was for Michael Phelps to swim 17 races and win 8 medals and break multiple records over the span of just a few short days. For some reason I wasn’t really that impressed by the announcers constantly repeating it. It’s just swimming in water right? You don’t even sweat while doing it!

Watching the track events and seeing the people that do multiple events have to go through heats (like Phelps did in the water), I’m completely and totally amazed by some track stars doing three different events over the span of a couple days. I guess it’s because I ran cross-country and longer track events at one time in my life, and that I can see they are totally exhausted at the end of each heat, but I am amazed at the insanity of running full bore several times a day over the course of a couple days.

Then I realize Phelps did about three times as many heats/races in a similar timespan, and that the few times I’ve been in an olympic-sized pool exhausted me almost instantly, and I have a new appreciation for the insane amount of sheer exertion that kid put himself through.

* too long for twitter

Becoming an old (blogging) man

Today I realized that I’m part of the “old guard” of blogging because I remember a time when blogging was so new that very few sites had comments (it seems like MetaFilter was one of the first few?) and after a few years when they started to become commonplace, people were generally decent to each other because it was very literally turning a blog into a face-to-face conversation.

But I think the root of the problem (described in various media outlets over the past year or so) of snarky, or mean-spirited, or generally unhelpful comments becoming the norm has to do with the distance we’ve achieved from those original link-and-essay heavy blogs.

I have a feeling that if you’ve only seen blogs in the past five years (which is probably 95+% of people reading blogs today) you consider comments to be de rigueur and they are entirely divorced from the original concept of a conversation between the reader and the author of the original post. It’s not an intimate conversation, it’s just another content management feature available to you on the web.

This has a de-humanizing effect that I’m seeing play out more and more often in the weirdest places. People will post about their idle curiosities on their personal blog (“Why does x happen when I do y?“) and instead of seeing friendly answers I would expect many years ago, I’ll often see someone early on read into the question and assume all sorts of accusations (“well, maybe it’s because you are a, b, and c, and everyone knows it!“) and watch most followup comments start from there and go into darker directions.

It’s tough because I love blogs and I love comments in blogs, but I’m starting to think there’s this “new generation” that has grown up online only knowing blogs as having snarky comment areas and never realizing it used to be a personal, intimate space where you’d never say anything in a comment that you wouldn’t say to a friend’s face. Also, know that I mean “new generation” in a way where age of person in it is irrelevant. You could be 50 years old and started reading blogs last summer and I’d put you in that group.

Of course, I could just be talking out of my ass, old people tend to do that…


After upgrading my first mac (powerbook) to another powerbook, then to an iMac and finally to a Mac Pro, I realized five years of using the Migration Assistant had finally run its course. Various basic parts (mostly Keychain Access) of Leopard stopped functioning properly and since everything ran great on my new Macbook Air, I decided it was time to backup, format, and reinstall fresh on my main Mac Pro.

A few hours after upgrading I installed Firefox and my most often used apps like Transmit and Textmate. Every few days I realized I needed one more app so I’d download and install it. After a week or so, I was pretty much done reinstalling.

Last year I wrote about doing as much as possible using online apps and how I found it really handy, so today I looked at my Applications folder to see how many things I’ve installed aside from the default Mac apps. I counted 11 applications total outside of iLife and iWork. It includes a couple proprietary things I need for installed hardware (like the wonderful ScanSnap) but it’s mostly the basics (Firefox, Transmit, etc) for doing my everyday work tending MetaFilter.

The thing that surprises me is that I reformatted my computer about six weeks ago, and I haven’t felt like anything is missing since. Thanks to a combination of almost all my work being done online and the great set of built-in functionality of OSX, I can get by on an almost completely clean system.

Ten years ago I had literally hundreds of apps on my Windows box, and I feel like I was constantly needing more.

A used car scam I once almost fell for

I saw someone I know selling their old car on craigslist and it reminded me of the time I sold my last car using similar means. I almost fell for a couple guys that showed up, test drove the car, then tried to buy it at a vastly discounted price. They were quite persistent and almost wore me down after a couple hours but dropped a few clues that they had done it before. It really felt like I was being conned, and I’ve been meaning to write it up since it happened years and years ago, so I might as well now.

I listed my car at $3,000, about 10-20% below what bluebook was telling me, but I knew the car had a ton of miles on it (120k) and I just wanted the thing sold (I probably would have taken anything $2500 and over). The first person to respond to the ad went like this:

  1. A guy called within an hour of posting the for sale notice.
  2. He had a sob story about his sister that needed a car very badly to get to school, and how he’s ready to buy one for his sister asap.
  3. He showed up with a friend who he said knew a lot about cars. They both rode along for the test drive.
  4. We stopped at a supermarket parking lot after driving a bit, and the mechanic friend gave the car a once over, looking under the hood and looking around the entire car
  5. Mechanic friend comes up from the tailpipe with oil all over his fingers, says the engine block must be cracked, sending oil through the system.
  6. Guy sounds kind of bummed about the “cracked engine block” and we drive back to my place where I drop them off.
  7. Before he leaves, guy offers $1,000 for the car, since his sister still really needs to get to school and his mechanic friend promises to fix the engine at a later date for a higher price.
  8. I refuse, saying it’s a ridiculous price. He offers $1200. I say no thanks, and leave.
  9. The guys hang out in front of my building, calling 15 minutes later with an offer of $1300, and waits another 15 minutes to call again with an offer of $1400. I say no both times.
  10. Three days later I sell the car for the list price, from someone paying cash and looking to refurbish the car top to bottom.
  11. Original guy calls after one week from the same number, using a different name, asking if the car is still for sale.

I remember feeling weird about this guy and with enough red flags going off I walked away from it as soon as I could, but looking back on it, it was pretty obvious this was a common con-man style approach. I bet you could run a pretty decent business lowballing people and reselling their cars immediately after for market prices.

  • He called soon after listing, trying to nab underpriced cars before anyone else has a chance to consider them
  • The sob story was supposed to prey on my emotions, to help out another person in need
  • Even though I don’t work on cars, I now know that if there really was oil being sent through the exhaust, the car would spew blue smoke when driven, which it didn’t. The oil was smeared on his fingers from another part of the car, for this bit of theater. At the time I didn’t call them on this move but I did say it sounded highly unlikely to me.
  • Friend said he could fix the engine himself for $1200 so the guy could offer less and say “well this car will do for now for my sister, but it’ll cost me so much more to fix, can you discount your price a bit more?” This is also a bit of theater.
  • The lowball offer and slightly higher offers backfired on the guy, pissing me off. I knew the car was already discounted about $500 what it should have listed for, why on earth would I take 1/2 of that still?
  • Calling me back a week later under a new name was hilarious. I don’t know if that was a mistake but it made me think he called a lot of people selling cars.

What if cupcakes could somehow become more awesome? HOWTO

I’m a big fan of cupcakes, huge fan. 30lbs overweight fan.

Anyway, a couple months ago, my wife gave her students some cupcakes and someone BLEW MY MIND with a simple hack that solved one of cupcakes’ few failings: sometimes there’s just too much frosting, they’re too tall for your mouth, and/or the frosting/cake mix is all wrong in your mouth.

Behold my illustrated guide to How to eat cupcakes