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· 6 min read

I'm worried about us. Us as people, as a society, as a species. We've never been more connected, and yet we seem to grow increasingly short-sighted in how we communicate. I mean this in both the short and the long term.

As an aside, I'm not here to rail against spelling and grammar faults on the internet. Though I may twitch when I see them, they are not the current concern. They are the red herring to distract pedants.

Briefly put: In the short term we're not taking care to construct messages that will reliably convey our meaning to a disparate audience. In the long term, we're adopting a standard of public discourse that values the ego over the collective conscience.

Let's start with the short term...

Careless Communication Causes Concern

Words are imperfect symbols representing ideas (see the Legend and Definition of Terms below). Do we think in the language we speak, or are we simply interpreting our thoughts with our words?

I think it's the latter. Think back to the last time you were searching for a word to finish your sentence. You weren't at a loss for thought. You knew what idea you were trying to convey. Maybe you were seeking the word that perfectly expresses that idea. Maybe that word doesn't exist in the language you speak.

Careless communication risks incorrectly expressing ideas, even by your own interpretation. And that's where we fuck up; interpretation.

After you've translated your thought into symbols and expressed those symbols acoustically or graphically, it's out of your control. You've encoded your bitstream, and you hope that at the other end they're using the right codec.

Does every word have the same definition for each person using it? Probably. That is to say, we could look up a word in the dictionary and generally agree that the meaning provided is correct.

But does it have the same meaning? Absolutely not. The meaning we apply to words is heavily influenced by our personal experience, I'd say more so than the definition found in Webster's.

How much effort do you put into thinking about how your words may be read?

Did you read that before you sent it?

"I'm sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn't have time to write a short one." - Blaise Pascal

I probably did. I don't know you, but I know that you're rarely in such a rush that you don't have the time to read what you've written, but still enough time to have written it in the first place. And I mean read it. Don't scan the words, speak them in your mind as if hearing them.

Are you hearing the idea you intended to extend?

Caustic Communication Creates Calamity

What about the long term? For the moment let's ignore the problems of careless communication in the short term, and assume that everything said is always perfectly interpreted by every reader. In the current state of discourse, I'd almost find that more alarming.

So our words are meant to express ideas. But what are our ideas to us? I wish I had a better phrasing to use, because even the term "our ideas" invokes the problematic notion I find so alarming.

The majority of ideas you have are not "your ideas". They are ideas you read or heard from others, agreed with, and adopted. That's how we learn1. My concern with the phrasing is that it's a supporting factor of the problem of identity construction.

You are not your ideas. The things you believe are not you as a person. They are a big factor to be sure, but you and your thoughts are separate things.

I think this is an important idea to meditate on, because I believe that associating ideas with identity is at the crux of the long term problem with our communication.

I could (and probably will) write another piece diving more deeply into the problem we as a society have with ego and self-aggrandizing on both a conscious and subconscious level. For now I'll simply say that we have an unhealthy attachment to ideas, making them a part of our identity. I find this dangerous, because ideas should be subject to re-evaluation and adjustment or abandonment when presented with new facts. But when an idea is part of your identity, to abandon an idea is to destroy a part of your self.

So when we communicate, we're not trying to find the best ideas that conceptualize truth for our minds. We're largely revalidating the ideas we pad our identity with, while attacking those not in alignment.

A pause to clarify

One may misinterpret what's written above to mean that I'm opposed to argument. Far from it, I thoroughly enjoy a good debate. And I'm not saying that when you think someone is wrong, you shouldn't say so.

What I'm saying is that we must include a pause for self-reflection in our communication. Think about what you really want to say. More importantly, think about why you want to say it. Are you raising the level of discourse? Are you engaged in debate? Or are you defending an ego propped up by ideas that are being challenged?


In this essay, I use italics where I'm vocalizing the emphasis of a sentence in my mind. I use commas more liberally than may be dictated in your favourite manual of style because I want the reader to pause where I would pause while saying a sentence aloud.

Definitions of terms:

Fact: In the context of this essay, a fact is only objective truth, which itself is a term I don't have the time or education to define further, needed though it may be of late. Idea: Loosely related to a belief in this context, I'm using ideas as a term to define a coherent thought, opinion, stance, or proposed action. Thought: Closely related to idea, but more ephemeral. An idea can be a single thought or collection of them. Thoughts may be supporting structures providing a base or reasoning to validate or refute an idea.


  1. I am not exempt from this. Little to none of the ideas discussed here are my own. This is merely an amalgamation of ideas I've read or heard and determined valid, restructured in the form I feel best suited to convey the unified point I wish to make.

· 2 min read

Dream Journal Entry 2

I parked a block away, and walked towards the target house wearing a grey uniform. Tucked under my arm was a small stack of paperwork folded in thirds with a receipt stapled to the front sheet. Tools hung off my belt.

· 3 min read

Editor's Note: This is the first of what might become a dream journal. I've marked it into a new category. I'll try to categorize my other posts similarly, so those looking only for tech posts can get to them without wading through this bullshit. :)

· One min read

A month or two ago I registered and set up a WordPress site on Pantheon. The eventual goal was to make a web presence for my friend Billy, who restores the historic amphibious cars, and gives rides to folks whenever he can.

Today he called me to let me know that he'd be filming tomorrow for CBS new out of New York. He said he's doing it for the exposure, that they'd plug his email and phone number at the end of the segment.

Wait, what? His email is at, and his phone is a land line, no texts. Sounds like he needs that website, and he needs it now!

So I took some drone footage a friend captured, some photos I'd scanned from Billy, and made an MVP for And hopefully in another hour, once Namecheap renews their DNS records, I'll have a nice professional email address for Billy to give CBS.

Oh, look at that. It's past midnight. Off to bed!

· 2 min read

I'm a pretty modern person. I work remotely for a tech company, I've lost count of the number of computers in my home (laptops, old towers, Raspberry Pi's, etc), I even have Tux tattooed on my arm.

And yet I find myself falling into the hipster trappings of my generation; I have a turntable, I vape, and I just bought a french press. And I wonder to myself, why am I doing this? I'm a scarf and v-neck shirt away from hipster bingo!

· One min read

My goal is to focus less of my free time on games, tv, and other wastes of time, and more on learning, reading, and strengthening my skills as a technical writer.

To that end I've been looking into several online coding courses. I've already tried some in the past, and never found one that suited me. But there's always more options, and perhaps a permutation of two or more courses on the same subject might yield an education path I find more palatable.

The secondary advantage will be that I will have more notable things to blog about, bringing this blog back up from its slumber.

So wish me luck, and if you have any first-hand experience with self-learning on tech subjects online, please share it in the comments!

· 2 min read

Last night I went to Zappa Plays Zappa, the show where Dweezil Zappa and a group of very talented musicians performs Frank Zappa songs. It was an amazing show. Jen and I were especially impressed with Scheila Gonzalez, who played several instruments perfectly, including a downright amazing saxophone solo, and sang with amazing range.

Since it's the 40th anniversary of the album One Size Fits All, they played most of the album before doing other hits. If you're not familiar with Zappa or the album click here and listen to about a minute of it. We sat in  the third row left of center, right in front of the trumpet  / trombone / guitar player, so it was pretty freaking loud. Imagine the scene, and then guess what I did.

I fell asleep.

Several times in fact. I was following this loud, intricate cacophony of sound, and then suddenly I'm in a random dream sequence with the music in it, and then I open my eyes back at the show. I wasn't tired before the show started, and after the album finished and they played more standard rock songs I was awake and alert again. Why would the most musically complex music I've ever heard performed live make me fall asleep sitting up?

Here's my theory: as a child my parents would play lots of music, including a lot of Zappa. I would be put to bed at 7 or 8 and they would play One Size Fits All among others while I slept, in an old house with thin walls. Has my brain been trained to associate this music with sleep, to the point where it will put me under in a situation otherwise unconducive to sleep?

If anyone has any insight into this sort of phenomenon, please let me know!

· 2 min read

I came across this image on Facebook:


It inspired me to add my two cents.

I almost never repost this type of inspirational quote-in-picture media, but here's something we need to repeat over and over.

The society and culture you live in has been carefully guided into place to push the glorification of celebrity and the perfect image. American mainstream culture is not deemed by the masses. Popular culture trends are dependent on the options set in front of the majority of people, and those options often come from the media and news sources, owned by the same people who profit from your weakness.

By creating a constant basis of comparison to an idealized image of perfection, unattainable by most, people will judge themselves harshly, and in secret. The self-doubt leads to fear, and fear is the main motivator for material consumption; either as a temporary solution, a distraction, or an escape.

The confident, self-assured human isn't swayed by advertising for the latest health/cosmetic product. He has no need to drown his self loathing in addictive fast "food". He doesn't need to consume "reality" television.

Emotional stability is not profitable. Confidence is not profitable. But you are not a cash cow. You are an individual, and you are fine just the way you are.

EDIT: Changed some pronouns after a peer review. I don't like using gender-specific pronouns when I'm talking about humanity in general, but until we decide on a gender-neutral singular pronoun there isn't much I can do.

· 2 min read

If you're in tech, don't let the constant stream of information on the latest and greatest distract you from how awesome it is to be living right now.

When I sleep, a 6” portable device with more computing power than it took to launch men to the moon sits next to me. It broadcasts wirelessly to my sound bar a computer-created piece of music with binaural beats and isochronic tones designed to help me sleep and dream.

The device also communicates wirelessly with an even smaller computer on my wrist, which tracks how much I move in my sleep. The device uses that data, along with the sounds of my snoring, to determine the best possible moment to wake me up, as I’m coming out of a REM sleep cycle.

As I go about my day my portable computer continuously streams music from the internet. As I go from home to car to office it wirelessly connects to various speakers. It reminds me when I have meetings, and alerts me as people talk to me over a half-dozen different mediums.

As I type my friend complains about the 20 seconds he has to wait for 10GB of data to transfer off his computer over USB 3.0.

I'm going through Seinfeld again on Hulu, and they have so many conundrums due to missing phone calls because they're not home, losing people on the road and not having directions, not having the right trivial information at their disposal. If they had the same access to information that we've had in the last 10 years, the show would have lost half their story lines.

Here's what I guess I'm getting at: Now is awesome. Don't let yourself be jaded. Don't think so far ahead that you don't appreciate now.

· One min read

I think it's healthy once a day to go outside and look around. Look up. Take in how static and still the landscape is.

Then think about how you're traveling in a circle at 1000 MPH around the center of the planet, while also moving at 67,000 MPH around the sun, all the while still moving at 45,000 MPH around the center of the galaxy. A galaxy which itself is moving at 1.34 million MPH towards the constellation Hydra

You're never going nowhere, fast.

And if you're a fan of Monty Python, you already know all this.

· One min read

Yes, I am one of those people with a firm opinion on the Oxford comma. Most writers know the go-to example case for it, and if you haven't, here's a great visual representation.

In my particular field of technical writing you don't see a need for it too often. If you're writing out enough variables it's often better suited to use a numbered or bulleted list.

But every so often I'm editing a piece and come across a sentence that can only be made better by adding that extra last comma. It makes my... let's be realistic and say hour.

· 2 min read

Hello, avid reader! (Don't question the adjective, let a man dream). The good news is that I'm back up and running with a site that's more than just HTML edited in nano. The bad news is that my older posts are probably not coming back. I may be able to recover the text from a backup somewhere and manually re-import them, but no one should hold their breath over it.

As I type this, my coworker and I are entering the dreary early morning hours of a hackathon in Brooklyn, where we are stationed as mentors. My personal hacking has been the recreation of this blog, and installing CyanogenMod on my phone.

The Red Bull is calling out to me, but with the Starbucks and Monster already coursing through my veins, I'm saving it until I start to nod off, in the hopes that I'll make it through to the judging and still be sane enough to choose a worthy winner for our sponsor prize.

The following hours will probably be filled with further CMS and ROM tweaks, while fighting the sweet embrace of sleep that seeks to pull me away from my duties and into the warmth of nothingness. Toodles!