Wet Dreams?

It's easy to fall asleep to the patter of a steady rain, but the erratic drops from a leaky faucet will keep you up all night.

The Tritium Age of Podcasts

For the past few years, I've grown more and more enthusiastic about podcasts . . . and I wasn't sure why this happened, as the technology has existed for a while; I can remember the first one I listened to back in 2007 (The History of the Byzantine Empire by Lars Brownsworth) and while I certainly enjoyed learning about my favorite period in history for free, I couldn't imagine that this was anything groundbreaking, nor did I think that my friends would be interested in the topic (unlike now: I'm recommending podcasts to everyone, 24/7) and after I finished learning about Diocletian and Justinian, I immediately went back to Howard Stern (on my Sirius radio) but this New York magazine article explains what's behind the current renaissance in podcasting . . . and while I love the fact that podcasts have increased exponentially in variety and quality, I don't like the reason why . . . because the reason isn't intellectual and the reason isn't futuristic; in fact, the reason is mundane and environmentally destructive; the reason is cars . . . cars have gone on-line, and so on-demand listening is easy and convenient, and Americans drive a lot-- so the advertising money works if you have a successful podcast, and so I'm going to have to begrudgingly thank the internal combustion engine because I'm learning a shitload of cool stuff; here's a sample:

1) the 99% Invisible episode Vexillonaire taught me that if you want to design a flag, you should draw a one-inch by one-and-a-half-inch rectangle on a piece of paper, and draw your flag in that tiny space, because that small drawing is exactly how a flag looks when you view it up on a pole;

2) the Radiolab episode Cities taught me that the speed people walk in various cities correlates with all sort of things: income, patents created, the number of libraries, how many fancy restaurants exist, etc. etc. and the bigger a city is, the faster people walk;

3) Desi Serna's Guitar Music Theory taught me that in a blues progression, you can play the parent major scale over any dominant seventh chord, so if you've got an E7 chord, then you can imagine that it's the fifth degree of the progression and play an A major scale over it;

4) Sarah Koenig's Serial is still teaching me what this medium can do . . . and that on-demand-listening might be more controversial than anyone imagined.

Serial Hyperbole

For nine weeks, I've been touting the podcast Serial, and people are finally starting to listen to me-- in fact, there's even a Slate Spoiler podcast about the podcast-- but while I'm proud to say that I was hip to this thing when it started, and let everyone know it, I certainly wasn't smart enough (or brave enough) to teach it to my students, but -- thanks to my friend Alec, who sent me a link to "Why I'm Teaching Serial Instead of Shakespeare" and double-thanks to a generous and altruistic English teacher (Michael Godsey) who provided lesson plans, hand-outs, and connections to the Common Core Standards-- I started teaching Serial on Friday . . . and though I'm not going to skip Hamlet, I will say this: I've never had a kid say to me, when I introduced a new book "now I know what I'm doing this weekend" but a bunch of kids stayed after class to ask me questions about the podcast (which I could barely answer, because this story is so complicated) and that's what one student said before she left the room (another student listened to seven episodes in one day before I even started teaching it . . . Sarah Koenig has invented a new genre of media, and created a masterpiece in one fell swoop).

Stuff I'll Never Write

Since I'm never going to write this brilliant treatise, I'm offering it up to the internet: the trial of Hermione in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale is strikingly similar to The Trial of Socrates: both defendants remain stoic in the face of an illogical accusation brought forth by one person, both defendants refuse to weep or use theatrics to sway the jury, both defendants predict that the prosecution will dearly regret their decisions, both appeal to the gods for justice, both defendants refuse to cower before a death sentence, and both cannot imagine living if their current honorable status is stripped from them. . . this would be a great doctoral thesis for someone with academic aspirations . . . all I ask is a little something for the effort (perhaps total consciousness on my deathbed).

One Two Three . . . Four?

Sometimes, early in the morning, when I'm counting scoops of ground coffee as I dump them into the coffee-maker, I realize that I haven't been counting scoops of coffee, I've just been counting.

Phones Have Little Screens

Here are two e-mails from my friend Connell, after I asked him to check out a place on Airbnb:

1) This one looks really tiny to me . . . I'm looking on my phone so that shouldn't be surprising; 

2) I just looked at the place from my computer . . . the place looks fine and the location looks great;

and so I think we can learn a valuable lesson here; Marshall McLuhan was right, the medium does embed itself within the message-- if you look at an apartment on your phone, it looks claustrophobic and tiny, but if you view it on a 27 inch monitor, it looks spacious and inviting . . . and this brings me to my actual message: the youngster at my workplace that watches Madmen on her laptop is NOT watching the same television show that I am watching; she is watching a show about what happens to Don Draper (Richard Whitman) while I am just gawking at props and sets and furniture.


We all know that texting and driving is a deadly combination, but what about all the crashes caused by seeing someone texting and driving, and then getting so indignantly angry at the texting-driver that it causes you to get into a crash . . . because it's very distracting to properly curse-out a texting-driver in the lane next to you: you need to roll down your window, lower the volume of your car stereo, beep your horn, spout some dire statistics interlaced with profanity, and flip them the bird-- all at a moment's notice (I couldn't find any information on this phenomenon, but I'm sure it's bad news).

How to Be a Lousy Neighbor (in the Fall)

I did some research, and-- if you like your lawn-- then you have to rake up the leaves in your backyard, otherwise they will smother the grass and/or kill it with bacteria . . . but if you're patient enough (and don't mind being a lousy neighbor) then I've found that the leaves on your front lawn will eventually blow away (or at least all over your neighbors' lawns) but despite this epiphany, I still went out and bought some leaf bags, and so (eventually) I'm going to do the right thing (or make my kids do the right thing).

Savages Lives Up to Its Title

Even for Don WinslowSavages is especially brutal: two hydroponic marijuana growers take on the Baja Cartel, there is an abduction, and much collateral damage (and I'm taking a break from my Winslow book-binge, after consecutively reading Dawn Patrol, The Winter of Frankie Machine, and Savages, but after I finish the newish translation of Brothers Karamazov, I'm sure I'll be ready for some clipped prose and hip dialogue and get right back to him).

Sometimes a Tie Isn't Like Kissing Your Sister (Sometimes a Tie is Awesome)

Friday Night, Liz and Eric hosted the 5th Annual Scary Story Contest (the prompt was "The Hive" and there were eight stories in all)-- and as usual, the stories were fantastic: well-written, various in content, genre and theme -- giant insects in the Australian outback, a lepidopterist/ serial killer, a troll with a honey-comb eye, a town possessed by droning, an old beauty queen who poisoned young pageant goers, and an especially possessive female ghost with a particular musical taste -- and they were all deftly executed . . . and while the contest isn't all about winning-- comparing these stories is like comparing apples and pomegranates-- it's certainly fun to get the most votes, and it's always nice to collect some money . . . but this year there were two stories that tied for first-- so then it became an issue of whether or not we should vote as a group to break the tie, or just have co-winners share the money . . . and the group went back and forth for a moment before deciding to break the tie, which we did ("Highly Intelligent Extremely Violent" edged out "How to Win the Scary Story Contest") but this was a highly unusual tie, because Stacey and I decided on a risky tactic: we worked cooperatively on two stories (knowing that we would possibly lose a vote, since you can't vote for your own, so we couldn't vote for two of our own) but -- miracle of miracles!-- our two stories tied for first, so the tie-breaker didn't actually matter, and it was quite awesome to watch people breaking a tie, and not mind which way the vote went, because we were both playing for both teams; the lesson here is that it's fun and profitable to write with a partner, especially if you use Google Docs, and it's especially fun to write a scary story using Google Docs because as you are writing away, creepy words and images are appearing in other spots on the screen, almost as if you've channeled some kind of ghostly spirit to help you write . . . and just to feed Stacey's ego, since it was her first win, I should point out that her idea beat out my idea in the tie-breaker, but I should also point out that though her initial outline of the story fleshed out the setting and the conflict, when things got interesting, one of her bullet points in her "scary outline" was simply "fucked up shit" and it was really fun to cooperatively fill-in that part of the story.

The Only Good Thing About Umbrellas . . .

I am admittedly an umbrellist-- I hate those things-- but I have found one good use for them: the I'm going to a picnic and I'm bringing an umbrella game; I just learned this game from some kids in my Creative Writing class-- to start you say: "I'm going to a picnic and I'm bringing an umbrella" and then other people ask to bring things, but you only "allow" them to bring the thing if they say "umm" before the item; for example, if someone says, "Can I bring . . . umm . . . a sandwich?" then you say "sure!" but if they say "can I bring a sandwich?" then you say "absolutely not!" and some kids know the game, some kids figure it out, and some kids go crazy trying to understand why you can bring certain things and not others (this is very similar to the the "I love coffee but I hate tea" riddle) and one girl, once the gig was up and she knew the trick said to me: "So I was being punished for speaking properly?" and I said "Yes."

I Wear Ugly Shoes Because Sitting is the New Smoking

So if you haven't heard, sitting is the new smoking (even if you exercise) and chairs are the unassuming enemies that live among us (for more on this, check out 99% Invisible Episode 139: Edge of Your Seat) and that's why, when I was at the world famous Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, I went to the Rockport store and bought some very ugly (but very comfortable) shoes, so I would be more inclined to stay on my feet . . . but I've suffered some derision for these shoes (from my wife and colleagues) because they're not very stylish . . . but I suppose I'll have the last laugh, because I'll be wearing them when all my stylish friends are dead and gone (which doesn't sound all that appealing, but at least I'll get to throw Rockports on their graves).

Holy Cow! Or Should I Say Holy Owl?

If you haven't seen the documentary series The Staircase then I pity you . . . but if you have  seen it, then you need to listen to the first episode of the podcast Criminal (Animal Instinct) because it gives a perfectly logical answer to the Peterson murder . . . The Owl Theory!

If You're Near Phoenicia . . .

If you're anywhere near Phoenicia, New York, make sure to stop at the Phoenicia Diner . . . the turkey chili is the best I've ever eaten (it probably helped that we did a four hour rocky and muddy hike to North Mountain Ledge just before we ate) and I loved my wife's reuben (home-made sauerkraut and corned beef) as well; this joint has figured out how to balance affordable upscale-diner ambience without too much of the hipster farm-to-table Woodstock vibe (and they have a children's menu too).

Aphorism of Ian

My son accused my wife of sitting on his stuffed monkey and she said, "No I didn't!" and then -- much to her surprise-- Ian pulled the monkey from under her butt and my wife laughed when she realized that she hadn't sat on his stuffed monkey, he tricked her and then pretended to pull it from under her rear-end and after she finished laughing, Ian told her: "a day without laughter is a day wasted."

Just Because You Live in Woodstock, Doesn't Mean You Know About Woodstock

For the November long weekend, we rented a fantastic house (Airbnb!) in the scenic little fly-fishing town of Phoenicia up in the Catskills-- and we took a side trip to Woodstock (which is just as you might imagine it: kitschy shops, art galleries, farm-to-table organic restaurants, etc.) and stopped at Peace, Love & Cupcakes and found out that Janice-- award winning cupcake maker-- went to Douglass College (Rutgers) in New Brunswick, remembers Greasy Tony's, and student taught at East Brunswick High School-- quite a small world-- and now she's an old hippie that runs a fantastic cupcake shop in Woodstock, but that doesn't mean she's any kind of authority on the concert that occurred in 1969 on Max Yasgur's farm: for the sake of my children, we were trying to list some of the acts at the show; I said The Who and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were there and she insisted they were NOT there . . . but they were there (despite this lack of knowledge about the line-up, her cupcakes were still very delicious).

What's Wrong With My Head?

When I wear a rain-jacket, the hood always covers my eyes-- I don't know if my neck is too short or my eyes are too high on my head or my posture is too troglodytic-- and so in order to keep dry and see where I'm going, then I have to wear a baseball cap and the rain-jacket hood . . . this seems like overkill; does anyone else have this problem?

Even Bruce Loves a Reading List

Even though Bruce Springsteen and I only have three books in common on our favorite books list (Moby Dick, Blood Meridian, The Brothers Karamazov) I still totally approve of his list (I've read fifteen of the thirty books on his list and might read a few of the one's I haven't read).

Dave Receives a Compliment Meant For His Wife

My wife has been multitasking like a madwoman lately-- work craziness, packing for our son's school camping trip, making lunches for everyone, cooking all the meals (because I'm coaching all the time) and participating in various community stuff (ice cream socials and School Board election events, etc etc) so I decided to get her some flowers and write her a note to her reminding her how much the family appreciates all she does for us; I called the florist and then got Ian and the dog ready to walk over there, but then we decided it would be more fun to bike over, so I attached the dog to my bike and we cycled over to Main Street, picked up the flowers, and headed home -- and I felt a little overwhelmed, as I was:

1) trying to hold the wildflower bouquet;

2) trying to prevent the dog from wrapping the bungee cord around any trees, bushes, or humans;

3) trying to keep an eye on Ian, since we were crossing some busy roads and navigating some areas where there was no sidewalk--

and I must have looked pretty absurd: biking with the dog, trying to hold the flowers, my son trailing behind me, because a mom pushing a jogging stroller took a look at me, made some inferences, and said "You're a good husband!" and I said, "I think I bit off more than I can chew here" and then she yelled-- because I was flying past her at this point: "You're teaching your son a great lesson! How to multitask!" and when I got home, I realized the irony . . . I was trying to thank my wife for multi-tasking with some flowers, but instead I got complimented for my multi-tasking (by a fairly cute jogger mom, I might add) even though I'm a horrible multi-tasker (and not even very adept at doing one thing at a time).

Trick and Treat

Despite being exhausted from non-stop soccer events, I decided to so something fun and ambitious at my son Ian's Thursday night soccer practice: Soccer Olympics! with prizes for the winning team! . . . I figured it was the day before Halloween and the kids would enjoy some friendly competition-- and I had a funny joke planned; I was going to award the winning team oranges and then give the losing team candy, though my wife said this was a bad idea and the kids wouldn't get the joke and might kill each other and/or me-- but she was wrong, the kids tried to kill before the prizes were awarded-- the friendly competition wasn't so friendly: there was an actual fight, kids were cheating, bickering, etc. and my son got busted for an f-word violation, and so it turns out you shouldn't have Soccer Olympics the day before Halloween, but once we sorted out the mayhem and announced a winner, I forged ahead with my joke and said, "Okay, for the winners, who did so well at all the events and are such great athletes, we have something healthy and delicious: oranges!" and the kids were happy to have them-- for a moment-- but then when I said, "Okay, and we should punish the losing team and give them something bad for them . . . candy!" and then there was a fun moment of cheering and complaining, from the losers and winners, respectively, but there was no outright fighting, and then I gave the winners candy and the losers the rest of the oranges and everyone was happy.
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.