Thoughts on Recent Life

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Two months ago I moved from NYC to the burbs…and have been tired ever since.
I sleep three times a day now: at night, on my way into NYC and my way home from NYC. The dream, no pun intended, of reading a book on the way in and watching a DVD on the way home has been retired for now because I’m just too tired to even try to do accomplish it. Having two kids under three years of age will do that to you I guess and if you add a stressful job into the mix, you definitely have a great recipe for a lack of posting, which is exactly what has happened over the past few weeks / months.
I’m not happy about this development. It makes me sad. That being said, I’ve been able to be reunited with all of my writings now from the past and seeing the shear volume of that discourse makes me feel guilty about now posting more.
On the one hand, I want to stay relevant and out there. So maybe I should post 140 characters or less with a link to something else a la Twitter on this blog. On the other hand, that isn’t what this blog is about and I refuse to do that. When I migrated it from Movable Type to WordPress, I had to reformat a lot of posts and realized how many of my posts were simply “Go look at this cool thing!” posts which didn’t hold up over time – the links are gone from YouTube and without context, even I, the one who wrote the post, didn’t know what was truly going on which was so very discouraging. That is because my intention for this site is that one day, I want for someone to be able to look at this blog as something of substance, an ironic gesture considering that it only exists as zeros and ones powered by power.
Anyway, I have a whole folder just full of things to post. In both my personal and work email accounts I’ve created a folder called “Blog Worthy” and there are tons of posts just waiting for me to address. I promise to you Hopefully Constant Reader that you’ll get a smorgasbord of them soon!


Thoughts on Aging

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“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I want to be dead.”
“You want to be what?”
“I believe you heard me correctly, which is why you asked me to repeat myself. I’ll say the same thing the second time.”
“I’ll bite. What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I want to be dead.”
“Why would you ever say that?”
“A grown up is an adult, right?”
“Adults cannot see the magic in the world anymore – they are the walking dead.”
“Okay Peter Pan.”
“I’d rather be dead dead than a zombie. I’m just saying.”


Thoughts on Pop Culture

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In the NY Times magazine this weekend, Deborah Solomon (DS) interviewed Douglas Coupland (DC), a writer best known for coining the term “Generation X.” He had an interesting point of view regarding popular culture that I felt was apt to share:

DS: How would you define the current cultural moment?
DC: I’m starting to wonder if pop culture is in its dying days, because everyone is able to customize their own lives with the images they want to see and the worlds they want to read and the music they listen to. You don’t have the broader trends like you used to.
DS: Sure you do. What about Harry Potter and Taylor Swift and “Avatar,” to name a few random phenomena?
DC: They’re not great cultural megatrends, like disco, which involved absolutely everyone in t he culture. Now, everyone basically is their own microculture, their own nanoculture, their own generation.

Coupland’s thoughts really resonate with me. Back in the middle of last year when Michael Jackson passed away, one of the reasons that the outpouring of grief was so large was because it just might have been the last time that so many people could be unified towards a cultural event and everyone sort of felt this in their bones. His death was in a way the death rattle of the Super Culture that we’ve been used to for so long. I’m curious to see if this line of reasoning – that a Super Culture is dead – holds up over the next few years or if I look back on this entry and think, “Oh, how quaint.” I guess only time will tell…


Feliz Década Nuevo

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Goodbye Aughts, hello Teens!
The first decade of the 21st Century and the new Millennium has finally ended. From a macro sense it was not a very good one but from a micro sense it was a very good one. I should note here that I feel a sense of deja vu in writing this post. I feel like I’ve put down these thoughts before but maybe I’ve just been telling them to so many people that I just think that I posted this info. Anyhow, here is what I mean exactly by my macro / micro breakdown terminology:
Macro: from a high level, the decade was book ended by the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the Global Financial Meltdown (paging Iceland – you are now bankrupt and hello mortgage holders in Florida, 45% of your houses are “under water,” a.k.a. you owe more than they are worth). If you throw in a Presidential election that was basically decided by elderly Jews down Florida who couldn’t vote straight (and its resulting Imperial Bush Presidency) and add on two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and lots of man-made and Act of God disasters (the Columbia shuttle explosion was “man made” while the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina were Acts of God), it’ s a good thing that the decade has come to a close.
Micro: the decade was book ended by me moving into and planning to move out of NYC (I moved in on 3/00 and I will be out by 7/10). I started my Internet career which has luckily thrived despite the dotcom bust and aforementioned recent global financial meltdown. I continued my relationship with my college sweetheart who eventually became my roommate, then my fiance and then my wife. We first added a dog and then a daughter to our family and God willing will have another child join us later this year. I watched most of friends fall in love, get married and start to have children of their own. I donated bone marrow to an anonymous donee (the docs said it was a one in a million match) and saved his life. I bought an apartment and pulled off the ultra rare NYC miracle of selling one’s apartment to one’s neighbors (hello no broker fee!). Sure, I was almost killed twice, once by someone I knew which resulted in me missing almost a full year of work and once by a stray bullet in a Chinatown shootout. I also lost my job as well as a boat load of money when the dotcom bubble burst but there is something quite humbling and clarifying about being laid off, losing your shirt financially and being on long-term disability all before the age of 25. It made me focus on what truly matters in my life. To that end, while my parents split up after some 30 odd years of marriage (which definitely would not be classified as a a good event) this trauma allowed me – and also forced me – to focus on my own marriage and I think it has been and will be better because of the landmines my parents hit.
At the close of the previous decade, I posted to my bedroom door the words of the poet Robert Hunter who wrote,

“Every silver lining has a touch of grey.
I will get by. I will get by. I will get by. I will survive.”

As I look back at all of what the Aughts wrought, I think that those words have never been truer. There was abundance of bad but an ever greater amount, at least for me personally, of good. While I’m both extremely scared and exhilarated to see what the next decade will bring, I hope you Dear Reader will be there sitting shotgun as I travel through it. To paraphrase an Irish blessing that I tend to write on special occasions,

May the sun always shine upon your face and may the wind be forever at your back.

Happy New Year and New Decade.



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Happiness – what it means to be and the pursuit of this blissful state – has fixated me from the beginning of my time here on Planet Earth. I love how in the Declaration of Independence only “the pursuit of happiness” is promised, not happiness itself. It’s not something inherited, but it can be given, or earned, or never achieved. It is a magical state. It is a kaleidoscope, a cornucopia, it embraces and mocks, and the list goes on and on.
I’ve especially been thinking about happiness lately because its the holiday season which always makes me take stock of my “happiness.” It’s a trip to be bombarded by “happy” imagery for a month straight while potentially “unhappy” events, say like your company laying off another 10% of its staff (which happened last week) swirl about the air.
Earlier this week, I read an article in the 11/16/09 edition of the New Yorker (in an article titled “Slow Fade”) about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s time as a screenwriter in Hollywood and I didn’t know that “happiness” would be a central theme of the article but it was – Fitzgerald started out a huge literary success and then that success dwindled and was never duplicated again leaving him despondent, vain and embittered. In the article, Fitzgerald is quoted as saying,

“life is essentially a cheat…and that the redeeming things are not ‘happiness and pleasure’ but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle.”

That to me that type of sentiment comes from the “it’s not the destination but the journey” school of thought. Is it true? Sometimes yes actually for nothing gives you greater pleasure than knowing you accomplished what you thought was an insurmountable goal but always? That is an answer about which I am not so sure. I do not deal well with absolutes.
My “journey” right now is geolocated in NYC and the Gray Lady yesterday had an article today about how Science Magazine has rated New York the most unhappy state in the union. Super!
One part towards the end of the article sums up the study and the city best:

Seriously, isn’t restlessness, even outright discontent, often a catalyst for creativity? We’re from the Harry Lime school. If you’ve seen the film classic “The Third Man,” you will remember that character’s admonition: “In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance.

W. B. Yeats’ output would not have been possible without his desire for unrequited love. I get it. Difficult circumstances can act as a fulcrum and allow greatness to be squeezed into existence. NYC’s tides ebb and flow over and over again and every generation has (no disrepect to da Vinci for I’m about to focus on one micro-microcosm of what goes around and while it is great to throw a great party, I know it’s not timeless like a statue) their Copacabana, or Max’s Kansas City, or Studio 54, or Marquee, or Beatrice Inn, or Bungalow 8, or TenJune, or Pink Elephant, or Santos Party House. Reach for the moon with those unhappy hands for while you very well might miss, you’ll still end up in the stars.
Note: I take no small comfort in knowing that NJ and CT were better than NY because they ranked 49 and 50 in the study. Yes, NYC did not even rank 50, it ranked 51. In the District of Columbia, which was counted in the study and ended up at 37, people are happier than in the Big Apple. Go figure.


Not That Bad of a Place

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Today I became a landowner in our nation’s third state which is what my friend Adam refers to as “The Great State of New Jersey.” At some point in 2010, my family and I will head west across the Hudson and this lifelong New York resident (first Long Island for my formative years, then Binghamton for college and then NYC for the last decade) will be forced to gets a Jersey license. This exodus is not happening immediately though so I’ll save my thoughts about what this move means, first from a leaving Manhattan for the Burbs point of view and then from a leaving New York for New Jersey point of view, for a future post. Let’s just say I’ll probably be writing that one late at night, full of scotch, listening to Ryan Adam’s “New York, New York” along with Sinatra’s “New York, New York” on repeat. It’s not going to be pretty.
This post’s title came from a title – agent that is – at today’s closing. Once I had signed the final piece of paperwork, the seller said to me with a twinkle in his eye, “Welcome to the highest taxed and most corrupt state in the Union.”
< Insert your salt-in-the-wounds metaphor here >
After I made a few jokes about how I’m from Long Island and therefore (as the Daily Show put it a few months back) a conjoined twin of the aforementioned corrupt land, the representative from the title company said, “Its actually not that bad of a place. And the town you are moving to is one of my favorites.”
Not that bad of a place. That should be the new state motto for New Jersey. Seriously, if Borough President Marty Markowitz can make all sorts of fun slogans up for Brooklyn (see below), then why can’t Corzine as one of his last acts in office put up signs up and down the Turnpike saying “Welcome to NJ: Not that bad of a place!”
Sign 1:

Sign 2:

Sign 3:

This could be my first contribution to my eventual new home. It’s the least I could do.


Phase 2 Part 2

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I am happy to report that almost ten years after I first launched Sevensquared.com and almost six years after I first posted to WGTCTIP2 two major developments have occurred at the same time: I have changed my host (from Buzix to GoDaddy) and my blog’s content management system (from Movable Type to WordPress).   You may have noticed that I have not posted in over a month and wondered, “Why the radio silence?”  Well, backing up and moving all of my site files (as well as my blog with its 750+ posts) was a time consuming though relatively easy process that is finally complete. Sevensquared.com is dead. Long live Sevenquared.com!
These two changes (host and CMS) are big for a number of reasons:
First and foremost, I now have unlimited space and bandwidth (for a lower yearly fee no less) which means that large PDFs, images, music and movies all can be stored and served by my site along with a super stable CMS that I do not have to troubleshoot and/or maintain myself. The next time my blog weathers a comment spam attack, its someone else’s problem, not mine.
Second, its been time for a change for a long while now and I’m excited to finally freshen things up ’round the ole site.  Everything and I mean everything will be getting a redesign and/or refresh (aka a face lift) and right away you will probably notice that my beloved blog looks a bit different.  I have a new font (Georgia) and a new design theme (Thesis – which gets a lot of fan and hate mail on the web – for me thus far it’s what I was hoping for) .  Two current annoyances are that I cannot figure out how to move the next / previous entry navigation to above the post (not below the post where the nav currently resides) and that I need to learn how to code my header so that an image (and not text) appears.  Also,  search engine results will no longer take you to the entry that is indexed as I’ve moved from a static html archive system to a dynamic php based system so I’m looking into how I can resolve this issue.  In the mean time, I’ve added a custom error redirect that will take you the blog’s main page so at least you’re not stuck on a basic 404 error page.
So, look forward to lots of cool stuff happening through the end of the year and the start of 2010.   I cannot wait to see what takes shape.


Independence Day

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A few years ago, I remarked when listening to the cacophony of fireworks exploding in the same suburban neighborhood that I was in this past weekend that “this is what it must be like living in Iraq.” Well, this past July 4th made me feel like I was in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the unruly Chinese province that is in the news now and every other war zone in the world combined for a few hours.
There was the pop-pop-pop of firecrackers, the whistling and bang of bottle rockets and the boom and eventual crack of larger fireworks. As the tree cover was dense, you could rarely actually see what was exploding and the noise lasted for hours and hours and hours.
What I experienced was not the “oohs and ahhs” I experience normally while watching a nice, big professional display and instead of enjoying the explosions, I actually found them frightening. I never knew how far away the explosions were or if one shell or rocket was going to go off in an errant direction and possibly land in my backyard, hit the house or even somehow hit me. I never knew if my dog was going to start to howl and therefore wake up my sleeping and oh-so-tired daughter or if some of the explosions were going to wake her up outright.
This non-stop noise once again made me think about war, about how there are many places in the world where war is either raging or where it could break out at a moments notice and how supremely lucky I am to be an American because all else being equal, I’m pretty sure that a sustained war will not be fought on these shores and in my backyard anytime soon.
July 4th has therefore turned into another form of Thanksgiving. I get to experience a pseudo-war zone, where there are explosions for sport, clay pigeons – no harm, no fowl – with a bit of danger thrown in because you don’t know if the person aiming at the bird is blind, for 1 day a year in order to appreciate the fact that I don’t live in a real war zone for the other 364 days of the year.
For that, I am very thankful.


My Facebook Status Update

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I have been very torn about idea of social networking Facebook (FB) style since it truly caught the world by storm – an event which I think took place within the past year. I have been torn because FB is the first social networking site (sorry Friendster and MySpace) to truly break out, and by that I mean it is the first place that my family, friends, friends of friends, fraternity brothers, former classmates, co-workers and ex co-workers, along with old friends who’ve I’ve lost touch with over the past 5 – 20 years, all mingle together.
The site is structured so that this disparate group can see (and comment on) the details of my life that I put out there, however inconsequential they may be, and tonight I pruned my ever growing list, removing people I’m not friends with but for whatever reason added to my friends list and moving people I’m friends with but not that close to onto a limited profile list so that certain details of my life which I deem “intimate” will remain hidden from them. My email address and web site address? Fine. My birthday? Fine. My work history? Public knowledge due to the fact that I’ve posted my resume to my web site. A video of my daughter laughing and playing with my dog? Sorry – that’s for me and only a select “few” but wait, the video in question was posted to my wife’s profile and she does not care nearly as much as I do about FB privacy, plus she has about four times the amount of friends that I have so I guess the video in question is in fact out there. Man, this whole networking thing get complicated.
This scenario has made me remember how I know of someone who was outed as a gay man through FB. His profile gave no clues as to his sexual preference, one way or the other, and he never linked to his partner’s profile but he did link to the profile of a friend of his partner’s and sure enough, that friend was linked to his partner and sure enough, the partner in question had written extensively about their relationship and even had posted pictures of the two of them in various romantic poses. So, in the span of three mouse clicks, about thirty years of life in the closet was undone, all thanks to FB.
My primary critique of the entire idea of FB can be expressed by delving into one particular sentence that I wrote above in the second paragraph: “The site is structured so that this disparate group can see (and comment on) the details of my life that I put out there.” What fascinates me is not the amount of friends that anyone has but the information that they choose to share. Unless you have heavily filtered your profile, your entire network will see and receive announcements about most if not all of what you post. I just learned that my 18 year old cousin, who is a freshman in college and who chose his college in large part to be close to his high school girlfriend is now single and feel incredibly weirded out to know this fact via FB. If you dear reader is on FB, let me ask you, do you post pictures of your kids? Do you post super mundane status updates, like “waiting in line at Duane Reade and frustrated, again?” Does anyone care? Unbelievably, a lot of people do care and that caring is the true reason why FB is so successful: it takes advantage of the inherent narcissism in the human character. We all have become media companies of one who have a permanent 15 minutes of fame. Posting on FB screams “I am important! Pay attention to me!” The fact that I just got a bagel and a cup of coffee matters! No longer is our collective obsession about these type of details limited to the rich and famous – we all are now our own paparazzi: we doggedly post photos, videos and stories, all in the manner of an US Weekly “Just like us!” column. I can just picture someone reading my current FB status and thinking, “Jeff is frakkin addicted to Battlestar Galactica – just like me!
My secondary critique of the entire idea of FB is about how it is just one outrageously enormous time suck. One can lose themselves for hours or days or weeks just looking at photos or comment threads or status updates of friends, friends of friends or people they have not seen or thought of in decades. For those that have given into this form of voyeurism, I ask how many great novels could have been read or great movies could have been watched in that time span? That being said, there are so many different forms of time sucks available that it is unfair to single out just one. Blogging as a form of journalism could be considered a time suck right? I’m not reading Anathem even though I’ve had it for over three months. Rather, I’m writing 1500 words on what I think about FB. Hmmm.
This secondary critique is not all together fair because if FB was truly a waste of time it would not be nearly as popular as it is – this voyeurism is not truly evil because it directly feeds into the site’s shining virtue which to sort of quote the FB homepage is to “help you connect and share with the people in your life.” As life continues to speed up, staying “connected” to those you care about has become more and more challenging. These quotes around “connected” are used because I still have not come to terms with what I feel connected truly means in this instance. Does connected mean “I know what so-and-so is up to”? Does the fact that I know that my cousin is single matter when I do not know who ended the relationship or why it ended in the first place, or that I don’t really know anything about their relationship except frankly what I wrote above?
Regardless, not only does FB allow you to stay “connected,” it allows you to reconnect with long lost friends and family, like for instance the people you went to camp with when you were 12. These are the people who you thought you would be friends with for the rest of your life but then separate schools and schedules pulled you apart. Now FB is helping to repair these severed connections. I blogged about this type of reconnection experience a few years back and while it was brought about without FB, it happened because of email. Considering that the Internet played a primary role in this reconnection process, I would make a serious case that FB is just the killer app for reconnecting and that it made this process as easy as pie. Who doesn’t love pie?
Now of course, one cannot mention the FB phenomenon without griping at some point about the “why are you contacting me?” person. We all have encountered this person more times than we ever would like. He or she is the one who, way back in 7th grade, we were never even friends with to begin with so why this person needs to send us a friend invitation now is beyond all comprehension. To me, these requests are more than a little odd – they are a delusional attempt at revisionist history. So, to those that keep sending me friend invites who were never really my friends, please know that I do check my queue and that I do not want to connect to you as we have less than zero to offer each other. In fact, my act of adding you as a friend only would feed your psychosis and of that I want no part. I am a nice person and cannot bring myself to block you, even though I have hit the “ignore” button more than ten times. Going back to the FB mission statement, you may think that you are simply reconnecting with the people in your life but you should re-read the statement for it actually reads “connecting and sharing” and considering we never shared anything back then, I have no interest in sharing anything now, period.
The last part of the entire FB experience that is challenging is managing that ever growing friends list. Mine after tonight’s pruning exercise is about 180 strong and of those, only about two thirds can only see my full profile. The NYT has a great article this week called Friends, Until I Delete You. It goes into detail about the etiquette of friending and defriending (or unfriending – I prefer the de but it seems the un is more popular) and is what made me in the end post these thoughts.
You may have heard me voice some or all of these ideas in private conversations over the past few months but the Gray Lady finally inspired me to finally put them down, all 1,500 words of them, in zeros and ones. So, there you have it – my view on FB. I think that my status updates will be solely reserved for only Battlestar Galactica related comments for the foreseeable future. The fact that I am in love with this show is something that I don’t care if everyone knows…


Not Famous? Be Happy.

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After watching Posh Spice attempt to leave LAX I am deliriously happy I’m not famous. I mean, seriously. Is this the life you want to lead?

Yes, she could have traveled in a private jet at a smaller airport and avoided this LAX nonsense altogether but at some point, she has to enter the public space, like by going to a restaurant, and I’m sure the above would just happen then. I think the only way to avoid this type of craziness is by not being famous. Then again, being famous but ugly might work. So, I guess the question is then do you want to be beautiful and not famous or famous and ugly because beautiful and famous sucks donkey!