Skip to content

Letters to young people: Ents

Student who failed class asks for recommendations of what to do next time. Response:


You got a 67.7% on your midterm.
You got a 58% on your … paper.
You got a 72.5% on your … project.
With generous adjustment (which everyone in the class got), you got only 27% on your final.
You skipped a tremendous number of forum posts …. The syllabus specified these were part of your grade.
Your class participation rates were fine, though you sometimes seemed lost.
You had two more absences than an acceptable number; that alone took two points off your final grade and should have taken off more.

The major problem in the majority of your assignments was you simply didn’t answer all of the questions. On the final particularly. I gave you a list of things to answer, and you skipped a bunch of them. Just don’t do that. Or skip homework assignments. Or class. Just showing up constitutes a significant part of your grade, not to mention people’s judgment of whether you’re a decent worker.


Yesterday my community lost a brilliant light, Aaron Swartz, who did a great deal, in very few years and very young, to better the Internet and the information we have to understand it and the rest of our world. I met Aaron for the second time last year, and had been looking forward to future conversations with him. Like everyone, I am bereft at knowing those conversations will not happen.

The geek community has done a lot of thinking about depression and suicide in the past few years, notably Mitch Altman and co’s great panels at 28c3 and HOPE and other organizing activities. It is especially difficult to have the news of Aaron in the wake of these panels. I know organizing doesn’t make everything better immediately. It’s just…. damn.

All I can offer is what I do to save myself.

Goodbye to Facebook?

Facebook, dammit, I wish I could quit you. I need to quit you.

When Facebook played fast and loose with my privacy settings, I stayed. My friends kept track of how to fix them, and I’m pretty good at keeping on top of such things myself.

When it got more and more obvious that Facebook’s news feed algorithm was engineered to make money, not keep me updated on people I cared about, I stayed. The benefit of staying in touch with friends and family outweighed the frustration of sometimes missing words-only messages while the site served me up yet another “inspirational” message forwarded by a business contact I barely knew, because it was a photo, and those grab attention better.

G. E. B. Kivistik

I shouldn’t even be doing this — I OUGHT to be working on the Nyan Cat project I had a flash of inspiration for the other day, a project with the potential to be FAR more enriching to the lives of those around me, and, dare I say, to the world. But another flash just hit me about something entirely different. And I miss my personal blog. A lot. I miss venting to it, on an Internet so obscure to the average person that I could be assured my bosses wouldn’t read it just because they barely knew what a webpage was, much less a blog.

ANYWAY I am feeding it this:

Protests, Revisited

Jury duty has put me down around City Hall for a few weeks, meaning I’m closer than I’d ordinarily be to the occupation on Wall Street. I’ve wandered by a few times after we’re let out at 5. Today I spent more time there, trying to figure out how I could possibly be useful.

Useful, in a protest setting.

I found out early in the anti-globalization protests of the late-’90s-early-Aughts that I’m really uncomfortable in throngs of people. My gut reaction is to run clear of them. It’s maybe not a claustrophobia thing. Maybe it’s a manifestation of privilege. I dunno. I hate walking behind slow people, want to kick out or thrash when I’m boxed in by a crowd. Being in an immobile mass makes me feel useless. Inefficient?

It’s one of a few reasons I always gravitated to communications roles and to the Independent Media Center. I prided myself on being able to accomplish things by writing (wrong as I may have been) and felt more like I wanted to deliver a clear message to a lot of people than be one of a lot of people chanting. Back in 1999 not many people had cell phones, so there was also a lot of use for someone who could help with walkie-talkies and dispatch. I liked that, too; I had done it for the Humane Society officers in my hometown, and it felt familiar. And safe. More comfortable in the crow’s nest, hearing from the streets by radio, being able to send directions back to guide protesters away from police kettles, cordons, or tear gas.

So much has changed. (Continued)

I’m sorry, San Francisco, I couldn’t help it

every car sounds the same
coming up 25th
towards Dolores
It’s a kind of strain
it’s the sound of a struggle
Nobody owes us this
the view afforded
by this height
of seismic activity
It didn’t happen

Nobody owes us this
it could all come down
Nobody owes us this
the richness
of this kind of town

On Bicycles

I just wrote up the following for my online dating profile, on a site which seems to be awash with fixie-riding hipsters. Cute boys, but unfortunately bicycle-obsessed.

Many of you good-lookin’, smart, down-for-the-cause gentlemen appear to be into bicycling. I generally click through a cute picture and skim down a well-written, funny profile indicating how reliable your leftist bona-fides are, feeling like you are maybe The One For Me, and then at the bottom, I see “Big bonus if you want to ride bikes with me.”

I have a confession to make, honey. I hate bicycles.


Hello, Hello

I’m watching and listening to The Beatles’ Hello, Goodbye, having been earwormed with it:

The Beatles – Hello Goodbye

A simple song, almost like an exercise in opposites. That’s how the song came about, according to the Wikipedia page. Listening to it, something lifts from me.

Some of you may have heard that we recently lost my cousin, Clay Cobb, to complications following the flu. Clay was only fourteen. He’s the son of my mother’s half-brother, the nephew of the aunt who took such good care of me while I was struggling to live in San Francisco. He was one of the kids in her summer rock band camp.

Someone Else’s Neuroses

This is going to be one of those posts I might oughtn’t to write on the modern Internet, now that everyone is here and knows where you live and won’t accept your unborn children to Choate because you once blogged that the school’s name bears a resemblance to slang for an otherwise unnamed part of the male nether regions — I did so prefer the Internet before you-all got here, GIA — but I started this blog to write on noteworthy experiences in New York City. The training I chose as an undergrad was formal, written ruminating, in the tradition of Rousseau. And I’d like to think that if Rousseau had bed bugs, he’d have written about the experience of getting rid of them, because it gives one pause.

*goes to google whether Rousseau wrote about bedbugs*

*finds google’s results to be roughly the quality of bed bug feces*

I have bed bugs. Had, past tense, hopefully, if yesterday’s treatment took. No shame in it. Everyone gets ’em these days. Upper East Siders. Department stores. Trump, I think. A former roommate who is also an EMT and who had them herself admonishes that it’s not an indicator of lack of cleanliness.

But god, will it ever make you feel like you have social herpes. All over your face. (Continued)

Blank Textbooks

I just googled “blank textbooks.” I was doing so because I wanted to allude in a presentation to Richard Feynman’s story about reviewing textbooks for use in California schools, being handed blank textbooks and being told to comment on their worthiness anyway. I wanted to do this because it should not ever, ever be forgotten that the textbook marketing and development process is rather like watching sausage get made. It’s an awareness that diminishes appetites, and it’s another reason to never take the quality of the US educational system for granted.