politics, science

We chose to go to the Moon.

I was nine. The space program was a reason for me to have optimism about the crazy, chaotic world I’d been born into. It encouraged my interest in science and the future. A huge national effort of engineering and planning devoted to something other than someone else’s idiotic war.

This was the reason America had been founded. This was what we were supposed to be about: solving enormous technical problems, striving to reach places we’d never seen, hoping to learn things about the universe. Nothing to do with killing millions of people over ancient bullshit land grabs.

I watch “From the Earth to the Moon” every two or three years. For several hours I revel in the memory of a time when I was part of a culture that took pride in accomplishing things that bettered all our lives—not just those of a few billionaires.

And then the final episode’s end title leaves me crying uncontrollably for the end of my wonderful space program, and for the end of my optimism. I grieve for both in a way I never have for any human being.

family, politics


USRadiumGirls-Argonne1,ca1922-23-150dpiFrom a March 12th Rachel Maddow report, I just learned of a whole other group of people who underwent slow occupational poisoning from a watchmaking activity very similar to the one that eventually did in my dad. Decades before he succumbed to illness brought about by watch-cleaning solvent poisoning, young women were killing themselves with the radium paint being used on watch faces. All done with a tiny brush that needed to stay pointy for detailed work.



What more, in the name of love?


The writer linked here sets out to examine a very real problem (the darker side of “Do What You Love” career advice), but draws too many initial conclusions from a noticeably selective interpretation of one famous man’s accomplishments. Mention of whom is almost certain to guarantee page views on a for-profit magazine’s web site.

The first half of this article is a careless conflation of selective paraphrases of a speech Steve Jobs once made (from which Ms. Tokumitsu omits exhortations of the value of hard work, which Jobs never avoided) with the broader marketplace of Chinese contract manufacturing and declining salaries for American middle-class knowledge workers. Blame is assigned to elitist privilege in a meandering attempt to find the origin of a very real decline in the value our culture and our business class assign to work.

She finally gets to the point about halfway through the piece. But she’s still avoiding what I understood was Jobs’ original intent in saying “DWYL”: find something you love to do enough to get good at it. Do it well enough so you can make a living off it. Yes, that still originates from a point of privilege and romanticized notions of how much leisure time remains in the lives of a shrinking middle class, but it’s not quite as tunnel-visioned as the article attempts to suggest.

H/T to Kellie M. Walsh for finding this article.

spew, theater

On the loss of an important friend.

Today I learned that a dear, exceptional woman who got me into theater almost three decades ago, and lovingly supported some of the most creative work I’ve ever done — or may ever do — has died of a heart attack.

She was a friend I never learned very much about, but with whom I felt absolutely comfortable discussing my own faltering attempts at behavioral adulthood. I had few filters. She had many, covering reactions to my spew with a smile that said she preferred diplomacy to unfettered candor. Despite this, I rarely felt judged. I did feel support, though.

And she brought me in. She gave me little nudges towards performing in public, right when I needed them. At a time in my life when I sorely needed new ways to express some sort of creative impulse, she guided me towards the best efforts I’ve ever been part of. 

She was responsible for my first, awful steps as a shitty bit player in medieval-fair comedy skits. And later… for helping me believe I could do a lot more.

Were she still around, she could no doubt remember more details I’d want to relate. I’m not qualified to describe her achievements, except insofar as I never saw her play a part with anything less than full commitment, and I never worked alongside her with anything less than the total joy of unguarded collaboration.

This is unjust. I am so angry I can barely see the screen.

design, technology



The thirtieth anniversary of Apple’s Macintosh computer is an excellent opportunity to remind a special few of you about the things Apple has done for human beings who weren’t engineers or programmers, and about the things Apple did first, before commodity manufacturers could rewrite the history of consumer computing with trash-talk and gossip. That special few of you will include people who dismiss any technology that’s too easy to learn or that enables too many people who don’t build their own computers or write their own software.

You guys (and yes, almost all of you are and always have been guys, and you like it that way) were rarely helpful if you could instead find a way to be condescending, impatient, and ultimately dismissive. You provided object behavioral lessons for anyone who practices a specialty on how not to work with people outside of that specialty. You enjoyed being deferred to… way too much. You gave nerds a bad name and not a few of you are still doing your best to continue that sad tradition. Despite the fact that, year over year, fewer of the rest of us are asking for your opinions about anything.

Here’s something you weren’t remotely capable of doing while you castigated the Macintosh as a toy and treated its users like idiots:

Apple fundamentally enabled my chosen career, helped remove it from the toxic materials it had relied upon in previous generations, and gave it a wider creative scope than had ever been previously possible. And Apple did much of this while I was still learning about the field, so I could make active comparisons of how much their new technology had helped me improve my work… and remove a few carcinogens from the process.

Xerox, IBM, Compaq, Microsoft, and HP couldn’t have done that, and wouldn’t have wanted to.

Congratulations, Apple. And thank you, again.