Busted Stuff

I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards, and broken things.

Rebuilt White Nexus 5

Him: Why wouldn’t you just buy a phone? That seems like a waste of time and money.

When I was in college, my buddy Buckley used to fix my computer for me, which was often because I had no idea what I was doing. After the umpteenth time, he finally slammed the door in my face and said, “Fix it yourself!”

Which ended up being a really good thing because I taught myself how to do just that – before the age of YouTube – and ended up paying for part of law school with money I made building computers and networks.

Similarly, after I realized I didn’t know a thing about cars, bought a really beat up old BMW 325i and essentially fixed most things I could. To this day, a lotta of my old friends remember me driving around without a passenger seat while I was looking for the perfect one.

In any case, couldn’t sleep well last week so I started a project I’d been wanting to do for a while; built a phone from scratch.
Cracked Red Nexus 5

After doing some research, I ended up choosing the Nexus 5 because (a) I’ve owned a few and (b) it got an iFixit rating of 8 out of 10 to repair and the parts were pretty available.

My cousin Lynn was nice enough to give me her busted phone to practice on, which was also a good thing because I absolutely destroyed that.

With those lessons learned, the whole thing went surprisingly fast; only about three total hours and I was done. The most expensive part was the screen, which I managed to snag for $90, new.

Figure I’ll just sell it for what I bought it, which prompted a buddy to ask me why I did it in the first place.

And my answer has always been the same as for why I built my own computer, car, DVR, network, etc.

Me: I didn’t do it for the phone. I did it for the understanding. I don’t like not understanding things.

We should all die knowing something, cause we’re not here for very long.

But there’s another reason, of course. Like the good Mr. Lannister, I have a soft spot for discarded and broken things.

Should mention that I remained friends with Buckley for over 20 years; he and I ended up buying the Manhattan apartment I live in now.

Good friends challenge you to be the best version of yourself.

Location: my UWS apartment
Mood: accomplished
Music: Rolling stone gathers no moss but leave a trail of busted stuff
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Rolling Stones gather no Confirmation Bias

Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires

Buskers at 50th St Subway Station NYC
While I enjoy Kanye West as an artist, as a human being, he seems like a lout.

So when a posting came up on Facebook that said that he did another douchebag thing, I shared it only to find out later it wasn’t true.

The thing is, I assume he’s a douchebag so when I read something that proves it, I immediately believe it.

What irritated me most about that was that I should’ve known better.

One of the few things I remember from my first year in Prof. Maas‘ Psych 101 Class – waaaaaay back in 1990 – was the idea of confirmation bias, which essentially echoes poet Jean De la Fontaine idea that Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires.

So when the Rolling Stone article about the UVA rape case was found to be completely false over the weekend, I thought of Prof. Maas and De la Fontaine again.

Rolling Stone and the authors wanted to believe that colleges are a hotbed of rape and misbehavior and found evidence to prove their position.

Only they didn’t. Instead, they just made it harder for genuine rape cases to be believed.

I see it every single day on Facebook. People that have evidence that aspartame and tilapia will kill you, Obama is a secret Muslim, and that jet fuel cannot melt steel.

It’s a daily thing – and something I perpetuated myself with Kayne West, because I wanted to believe he’s a douchebag and found evidence to support this, even when I didn’t.

Beliefs are dangerous things and they cloud judgement, even from those that should know better.

Still, it’s better to appreciate this with the smaller, insignificant things, than to realize it with bigger, more meaningful things. Just ask Rolling Stone magazine.

 

Location: in midtown later at midday for some afternoon cognac
Mood: hopeful
Music: People around gotta find something to say now
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Robinson Crusoe died wishing he was on the island

Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us

Home on an island in Bermuda
In my spare time, I’ve been writing a break-up book. Figured it’s the logical extension of the other two dating books I wrote

One thing I truly believe is to try to distance yourself from the pain of the breakup – or any pain, really – and try to appreciate the good things that come out of it.

While I don’t believe in that old saw that “everything happens for a reason,” I do believe what this poet named James Russell Lowell said:

Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or by the handle.

I started blogging during a really bad period of my life. But during that period, I had some pretty fun nights, met some incredible people – some of whom are among my best friends today – and, of course, met my favorite person.

And during that time, I listened to songs from singers like KT Tunstall, Camera Obscura, and Imoegen Heap; now, whenever I hear anything from them, I’m reminded of that time. And I look back on it fondly.

Did you know that Robinson Crusoe was based on a real guy? He was a fella named Alexander Selkirk that ended up alone on an island for four years and four months. After he was rescued, he became a multimillionaire and celebrity.

But he realized that that time alone ended up being some of the best times in his life. He died wishing that he was back on his islands with his goats and his thoughts.

In fact, when he could live anywhere in the world, he lived in a cave by himself for a bit. And one of his last thoughts was, I am now worth 800 Pounds, but shall never be so happy, as when I was not worth a Farthing.

Now, this isn’t like my usual rambling post so much as it is a letter to a friend to whom I say this:

Most people handle life as they do bad weather: they wait for it to stop.

Don’t be most people, because you’re not most people.

Try to enjoy these difficult times while you can, as odd as that might sound. Because it’s only just for now and it’ll be over before you know it.

In any case, I’m always (not so secretly) on your side.

Location: back to the gym again
Mood: content
Music: that time of year, leave all our hopelessness aside
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Have you ever heard of combat juggling?

Another thing I find oddly interesting

Thought I’d be done by now with my week but I’m not.

Had an unexpected expense of paying for some critical data I needed for a client project – which was astronomical because I didn’t know I’d need it until the 11th hour. Unfortunately, since this was a new client, it had to be done.

So I ended up agreeing to yet another project that will fill my time until the end of the month.

Maybe it’s just as well as it’ll force me to take some time off from the gym, especially since I’ve injured my rotator cuff.

Getting older stinks.

Speaking of the gym, a friend of mine knows that I fence so sent me the above video on something I’ve never heard of, called combat juggling.

It blends athleticism and strategy in a surprisingly interesting way.

One of the simultaneous pro/con things about getting older is that you really have to be thoughtful with how you spend the days you have left. I’m guessing I’ve got about 11,315 left.

There are any number of things I’d like to be able to try out/learn but my reserve of spare time is getting less and less by the day. I think in my 20s, I might have given this a go; it looks like fun.

On that note, it’s back to some decidedly unfun things.

Location: chained to my desk
Mood: still busy working
Music: searching for good times but just wait and see

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Die knowing something

Die knowing something. You are not here long.

Walker Evans - Dead End - 1973

There was this photographer named Walker Evans who took some pretty famous pictures – you might recognize some of his work.

All of these pics are his.

Walker Evans - Damaged

He always walked around New York snapping shots but with much worse equipment and much better results.

Walker Evans - Brooklyn Bridge - 1928

He once said, Die knowing something. You are not here long.

Walker Evans - Man with accordion in Subway

Always thought that to be sage advice.

I suppose we all wish we had more time. However much we’re given, never feels like much.

Walker Evans - Girl on Fulton St - 1929

There’s so much I realize I don’t know and I would like to.

Walker Evans - Pelham Bay Park

There just never seems to be enough time.

Location: heading to post office
Mood: worried
Music: i’ll keep waiting and some day, darling you’ll come to me
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The Past and the Virginia Tidewater Accent

Why is it the Top 40?


Did you ever wonder why the music countdown was always the Top 40? Why not the top 30, or 50?

The reason is because early jukeboxes could only hold 40 songs. So, decades later, we’re still constrained by figures and things that are no longer relevant.

I think about that a good deal: Why things are the way they are.

As I teach my fencing art and continue to wrassle, I’m ever vigilant to wonder if things are done for a good reason or if that’s just how things have always been done – and if the latter, why.

The core of the fulfilled life is the life that wonders why. And I think we all – in our own way – wonder about our purpose.

On a related note, I found the video above fascinating because you can hear how accents changed over time – how a UK accent can become an American Southern accent over time.

It’s a great commentary on how environment and time affects things to make the so different from what they once were that they’re no longer recognizable as what they once were.

On the flip side, though, I probably lie awake too long at wondering.

Lie Awake

Location: a building with someone that is starkers
Mood: irritated
Music: It’s simple and eternal, the sum of where we’re made
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Still waiting for my real life to begin

More funny, more smart

Me: I think I’m the more funny one.
Her: “More funny?” Well, you’re certainly not the “more smart” one of the two of us.

It’s been one of the coolest summers I can recall – which is a blessing for a guy like me.

But at the tail end, the heat decided to return and rear its ugly head. I’ve been moving at quarter speed since Friday.

Speaking of which, it was a holiday, hence my not posting the other day. Didn’t do much except for catch up on some personal reading and some work here and there.

I have friends that are constantly doing…stuff. They’re traveling places, seeing shows, having parties – doing stuff.

In the summer, even the cool one we just had, find it hard to motivate myself to be as active.

Suppose that’s why I can’t wait for fall to come, because I think I’m my real self. My year begins in September.

Which reminds me of something I wrote years ago; I’m 41 and still waiting for my real life to begin.

I wonder if one ever feels like it actually has.

Or will I wake up and old(er) man, blink, and realize I’ve missed it all?

Angel at Columbus Circle, NYC

Location: middle of my life
Mood: hopeful
Music: On a clear day I can see, see for a long way
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What color is the sun?

We don’t see things as they really are

Sun setting over Atlantic Ocean
After the craziness of the past weekend, was hoping to find some time to decompress.

Unfortunately, had a full blown night of insomnia that’s thrown me off kilter for the rest of the week.

In any case, my friend Paolina asked me if what happened over the weekend was a Big City thing or not. Didn’t know how to answer her since I spent my entire life here.

It’s like that thing I told you about years ago where a frog in a well knows nothing of the ocean.

Wonder if the fish in the sea’d be surprised to know that that we’re up here shooting each other to death over parking spaces?

Most of us spend our entire lives unaware that we’re in our own little fishbowl in the universe. Some of us realize the net result’s usually the same.

Me? I read anything I can get my hands on, trying vainly to see the world as it is, rather than what I think it to be.

But every once in a while, someone reminds me that I don’t actually see things as they are, I see things as I am. Who I am. Where I am.

The sun is white.

It’s the atmosphere that makes it seem yellow. But it’s not yellow at all and only a handful of people ever has seen it as it really is.

That bothers me some.

But then I get some sleep, eventually, and forget that I once cared to know.

Drinking at Pier I

Location: in a newish room
Mood: philosophical from lack of sleep
Music: You want me down on earth, but I am up in space
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Two Scenarios

Hope you had a better weekend than me

It was not a good weekend. Without getting too much into it, there’s something about disappointment that’s particularly hard to bear.

Suppose I give you – totally randomly – $100 but there are two scenarios:

Scenario 1
You don’t know me and I just randomly hand you $100 and tell you that I give out $100 to anyone I like that day and you’re that person. How do you feel?

Scenario 2
You don’t know me and I just randomly hand you $100 and tell you that I just gave out $100,000 to the first guy I met, $10,000 to the second, $1,000 to the third and now $100 to you. How do you feel?

You feel different, don’t you? In Scenario 1, you’re elated. In Scenario 2, it’s a lot less so.

The funny thing is that the baseline transaction – me giving, you getting $100, unearned – is exactly the same.

What we expect of the world shapes our perceptions of what happens to us and those circumstances make things happy or sad.

It was not a good weekend.

————–

On a slightly positive note, just put up my Facebook page for A Great First Date and already have close to 200 likes.

If you’re on Facebook, consider giving me a like?

 

Location: chained to my desk with a broken computer
Mood: deflated
Music: I’ve been thinking about you. How are you doing these days?
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A Review of Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath

Only time will tell what makes you better or worse

Just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

Actually enjoyed it better than his other books – which I also enjoyed – particularly because it seems to echo things I’ve always believed to be true. For example, he notes that there’s a difference between:

  • Direct hits – where something kills you, literally or figuratively
  • Near-misses – where something almost kills you, literally or figuratively, and it’s enough to send you spiraling into despair
  • Remote misses – where something almost kills you, literally or figuratively, but it’s far away enough from you to help you become stronger

Although not mentioned in David and Goliath, I think that two quotes best sum up the basic idea of the book:

Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong. – Winston Churchill
All experience is great provided you live through it. If it kills you, you’ve gone too far. – Alice Neel

It’s only with the passage of time that we’re able to see if the remote misses are near-misses and vice versa. Of course, that’s only if you overcome the blow in the first place. It’s not a perfect book – what is – but that rings true to me.

David and Goliath uses a lot of religious references (obviously) in order to show how these ideas have been with us since the early days of humanity.

And whether you believe in the biblical god or not, I’ve always like the story of how Jacob wrestled the angel and the angel was overcome. The angel could easily have destroyed Jacob but allowed him to survive to learn how to survive.

I’m not a parent, but I would like children of my own one day. I’m just not sure how to pass this type of knowledge down.

After all, a parent doesn’t wish troubles onto their children. But it’s only through stress does something become stronger, become anti-fragile.

Maybe that’s why I want them to fence, to wrestle, to struggle. I’d want them to know what it means to  get beaten, and then get back up again.

I think that’s why I do what I do. To give myself a daily dose of remote misses and to struggle to get back on my feet.

Location: getting dressed to go struggle for an hour
Mood: geeky
Music: a rattle and hum; Jacob wrestled the angel, and the angel was overcome
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