on ‘Picking up Dirt’

Out for an evening run, I noticed an elderly looking woman standing in the driveway to an office building, hunched over, picking things up from the ground. It appeared as though she had dropped some change and was trying to collect it. I trotted over, intent to help her recover whatever she had lost and get her out of the road. She was wearing fine clothes, and appeared to be in good health. “What did you lose?” I asked. “I’m picking up dirt.” “Oh.” She looked up at me with an expression of honesty and kindness that somehow rebuked the crazy motive she had just announced for standing in the middle of the street. “Well, that’s just dust from the asphalt, crumbles of rocks and stuff, I don’t think you’re going to get all that up. Why don’t you step over to the sidewalk?” “NO, I’m picking up the STICKS. …

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on Cooking

I am a fumbling amateur in the kitchen. I can deftly boil pasta, sleepily scramble eggs, and drunkenly burn popcorn. Anything past that is an adventure. A few weeks ago I signed up for a food delivery service called Blue Apron, which provides the all ingredients and recipes to make 3 meals a week. My first few meals with Blue Apron have been, to understate it, a Fucking Miracle. Here’s a rundown on several of the dishes I’ve prepared: Sea Bream with Tomato Jam, Green Beans and Black Rice. This was my first whirl with B.A., and I felt like a crazy Franken-chef setting out all the ingredients. My doubts evaporated at first bite. The tomato jam was sweet and I could eat it on anything.  I usually torture rice, but the right amount of butter and lemon saved this batch. Linguini with Cod, Fresh Peas, and Spring Herbs. This was delicious, and with my extensive pasta …

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on the Boston Bombing

A week before the Boston Marathon bombing, I was volunteering at a ten mile race in Washington D.C.  I spent the morning at the finish line of the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, giving medals to the elated finishers of the race. Thousands of people ran the circuit around the Tidal Basin, past the blooming trees, enjoying the Spring sun as it rose over the river.  There was no notion of danger, no way I could conceive of the violence that would rattle a similar event just a week later in a city not too far away. There is no way to prepare for such madness, no avenue of avoidance to strictly follow. Ugliness exists, and it struck Boston.  My deepest condolences go out to those affected by the violence, and my sincerest praise to those who finished the race, and those who helped apprehend the criminals.  As details emerge about …

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on the Simpsons, and Keeping Score

In a short news promo before last night’s rerun of the Simpsons, something caught my attention about an upcoming hockey game. The sportscaster said, in her spiel about why the game was worth watching – “Every point counts!” It was a typical phrase, probably used daily in a sports broadcast somewhere around the world, a rhetorical statement not really specific to the game, but a general excitement builder. It made me pause and think, though – Does every point count? In hockey and soccer, yes. Goals are worth a point. In Baseball, yes, runs are worth a point. They matter. In other sports, the singular point is only incidental. There is a possibility that a single point (not several points at once) cannot be scored in basketball, football, and tennis. The ‘extra’ point in football is the only instance in which a team can add 1 to their tally, and …

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on my Data Trail

I made a list of every website on which I have an account that requires a password – I got up into the forties and realized that I exist in way too many places on the internet. I tried to imagine what it would be like if 40 physical locations I visited asked me for a password every time I showed up. It would be insane, I would stop going anywhere. My data exists all over the place. There are databases that seem to track everything I do, and most of them are smart enough to predict what I’m going to do next: what songs I’ve listened to the most, and therefore which new releases I will like; how much REM sleep I average every night, what books I read, how much I spend on laundry detergent compared to other people in the United States, how many times I’ve been …

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on the Popularity of Empty Places

Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, recently announced that all remote workers would soon be required to report to physical offices. Whether or not the decision is agreeable, I find it interesting that this was apparently a matter of such great proportion that only the CEO could address it. I imagine a giant, monolithic Yahoo! office, tumbleweeds floating through hallways, and Mayer, alone, shouting into the emptiness: “Return!” Other leaders, managers, or vice presidents could have made an effort to wrangle up the herd. Or were they, too, hacking away at a keyboard in their bathrobes at home? Mayer’s decision to personally make the statement seems to indicate either a grand political maneuver, or a last ditch attempt to solve a monstrously large problem. Either way, the corridors of Yahoo! aren’t the only places that seem empty lately. In music and television, the echoes of solitude ricochet often. The French …

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4 Years Later

I was an intern at the Washington Post’s multimedia desk during the last Presidential Inauguration. I went out to the National Mall at 4 a.m., hoping to capture some of the early scene before reporting for my desk shift later in the morning. I took photographs of the crowds beginning to arrive, and got a sense of how giant the event would be. I remember the bitter cold, more than anything else. Returning to the WP office in Arlington by 10, the crowd’s cheering was audible across the river as the President took his oath. Since I’m no longer a ‘member of the press’ it would take an act of Congress to get me out of bed that early again. The crowd is expected to be smaller this year and the city is still buzzing, but I’m not as thrilled as I was four years ago to go out into the …

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on Games (three takes)

“The opposite of play isn’t work – it’s depression”  I’m thinking about games lately – video games, dating games, money games. Two books and a trip to Vegas peppered my mind with ideas. I’m starting to think that choosing the right game to play is just as important as winning or losing. Video games were a big deal to me as a kid – for my 5th grade science fair project, when most kids were building little volcanoes or demonstrating light bulbs, I dreamt up an experiment that sought to prove that video games, from Mario to Mortal Kombat, weren’t bad for people. In middle school, I ignored my homework to play GoldenEye on Nintendo 64;  in high school my nights would fly by with epic contests of Madden Football. In college, my roommate and I took a 2 hour road trip to the closest town with an available copy …

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on Reversing a “Permanent” Decision

It’s difficult to look at a decision, however small or large, that was made in good faith, and then to later realize it is no longer applicable, no longer the correct course of action, no longer the right attitude for the present. Occasionally these things happen. In some cases we don’t even realize the impact of the decision being faced, in others we understand its permanence, but not how time will shift our opinions. We can see, some time after settling on our choice, results beginning to develop that weren’t intended, or we might find that what was supposed to work forever can only work for a little while. Ten years ago in January I put a tattoo on the inside of my left forearm – six black script letters, spelling out the word “WISDOM.” Ten years I’ve worn it, at first with pride, then with some reservations, and finally, …

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on the Marine Corps Marathon

I ran in the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday, and despite not having trained for it, I finished with a time of about 5:46, a 13:13 mile pace. It was quite difficult at times but I persevered. The mistake I made in training was attempting to run a normal short-distance pace for longer runs – I burned myself out by trying to do 8 minute miles when I should have been doing 10 or 11 minutes. If I put in a long run every weekend of 10-13 miles, at a 10-11 pace, I think I could bring down my finishing time significantly for next year’s race. My original plan for the marathon (if you could even call it a plan – I kind of just rolled out of bed and stumbled to the starting line) was to only run 10-13 miles. The night before the race my family was asking …

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