Choose how you will die

I always heard about one’s life flashing before one’s eyes, but this was a singular event. On my first trip to Manhattan, I ducked into an underground dive bar on the upper east side. It looked like it was run by Cthulhu cultists. Bones and skulls all over. I just needed to hit the head, but the occupants all stopped laughing and talking as I entered. I was compelled to pick a tune on the jukebox. The titles were all grim and I felt both pressure and option anxiety, so I settled on “Thrown Under the Bus.” No music played but the whole room exploded with applause.

Well, here I am…

642 Things to Write About

Your city one hundred years from now

In one hundred years, Nashville will be owned by a network of Airbnb tycoons and occupied by nothing but bachelorettes. They will complain about the ultra-right-wing politics that stills dominates the state but will not care enough to go somewhere else or do anything tangible to change it. Some locals will still begrudgingly produce music for 60% of the western world. Electric, self-driving cars will produce a boon for PSC metals which will have expanded to cover much of the riverfront. In short, nothing will change but will increase in amplitude.

642 Things to Write About

The meanest thing anyone has ever said to you

She had the ugliest soul of anyone I’ve met in the flesh. Her face was unremarkable. But her soul was a chasm. Dead eyes – deeply set in front of what must be a decomposing brain – shifted their near directionless stare toward me. Her mouth opened like a rectum preparing for a painful evacuation. How long had she hunted for a stooge onto whom she could shift her self-loathing? Well, she found had found her stooge in me.

“You ain’t got no top lip. Do you?”

Eighth grade was hard.

642 Things to Write About

A Sneeze

On the dare of the research assistant colleague after a post-deep-clean drinking binge, I swallowed the entire plate of a round of drug trials. A fist full of various pills. You aren’t supposed to do that on day three of an unpaid internship.

Or ever really…

Immediately, my nose began to itch. We all laughed and went home. Them to wives and children, me to a sick roommate. Some wicked flu or other.

I woke this morning to the sound of breakfast. Roommate is well! Turns out the whole housing complex is well. Before bed I remember my sneeze.

It was the sneeze to end all disease.

642 Things to Write About

You are looking down through the skylight as chefs prepare dinner for your ex-fiancé’s wedding

Did she choose this venue on purpose? I wouldn’t put it past her. I wouldn’t put much past her. But she had to know the management wouldn’t allow me to work this party. Had to guess I’d be sitting up here watching Colin and Campbell fill in for me.


Why is Campbell winking at me?! What is he putting in that petite four? I should tell someone!


But this addition is surely mostly harmless. Hallucinogenic at worst. Though, admittedly, laxative at best. Whatever it is, the result will be a memorable wedding.

I give him a casual thumbs up as I turn to leave.

642 Things to Write About

Something you found

The ocean giveth and she taketh away.

As the gentle foam rolled in and quickly receded, I noticed a dark spot on the seabed about two feet beneath the water. Nervously, I stepped in and plunged my hand beneath to grab – not knowing what I might find. Up came beautiful Ray Bans. Polarized Wayfarers. I wore them for one entire year until they slipped out of a bag and returned to their watery home.

642 Things to Write About

Something you had that was stolen

37206: It’s 11 o’clock. Do you know where your lawnmower is?

bumper sticker

This was a common bumper sticker in our neighborhood. True story: One morning I came outside to find that some needy person had actually stolen our lawn mower. The joke, however, was on them. That lawnmower literally had a wheel being held on by fishing line. Yes, fishing line.

Music Theory

Polyrhythmic Epiphany


My brother-in-law introduced me to a funky, jazz/fusion band called Snarky Puppy recently. I’ll post the Tiny Desk concert link below. I was completely overwhelmed by how tight they are, but even more-so by how much fun they were having. In the middle of the concert, they flip the cameras around and have the audience clap a polyrhythm. It was the first time that polyrhythms made sense to me. But even after the revelation of how it works, I was really frustrated that I could not tap it out. I could keep the three easily, but the four made no sense to my (terrible) natural (lack of) rhythm.

So, what is a polyrhythm?

If you don’t know what a polyrhythm is, don’t sweat it. Though that probably means you didn’t watch the video above. It is pretty simple in concept. Basically, it is just two rhythms stacked on top of each other. For instance, a 3/4 beat played on top of a 4/4 such that the starting “one” always aligns. Even though this makes sense to me conceptually, I could not figure out how to tap it (let alone play to it) until I found this guy’s video.

In his video he represents the two beats as a single merged sound, which is how your ear and heart will hear and feel respectively. After you are familiar with the sound and feel of that funky beat, he breaks down the method of counting it out. Suddenly, all my music lessons of yore came surging back to me in a sea of connections to this lesson. Breaking a 3/4 into sixteenths (one – e – and – a – two – e – and – a – three – e – and – a…) lets you find the beats that align with the 4/4 signature. It helped me to actually write it down like a math problem. Once I could see and “feel” the thing while I listened to it, I was able to tap it.

What do you think? Is this kind of thing interesting to you? Are these videos helpful to you in discovering how to play a polyrhythm? What are other areas of music theory I should look into? Comment below.

Life Tech

Five minutes

If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.


Recently, FBI Director Christopher Wray spoke in a congressional hearing about end-to-end encryption and warned of the dangers that it presents to the Bureau’s efforts to fight crimes like child trafficking. You can watch a clip from his speech here: Twitter

In short, Director Wray is calling for Congress to pressure corporations and others to provide a “way to have legal access” to information requested by warrant or court order. He is leveraging examples of encrypted messages being used to arrange the sale and transfer of children in the sex trade. On the face, this sounds reasonable. It even sounds alarming that corporations are not currently forced to provide this access when the scary language related to trafficking of the innocent is juxtaposed. He assures a Congress, renowned for their lack of technological prowess, that this is not a “backdoor.” He says that the claim that the FBI wants a backdoor is a “myth” and an “urban legend.”

Now, I find that a lot of people do not understand what is meant (not to mention what’s at stake) when we talk about encryption. The type of encryption we are describing here is what is referred to as asymmetric encryption. That sounds super complicated (and it is) but for our purposes here it can be simplified. All encryption is simply jumbling up a message to keep the message private between two parties. In asymmetric encryption there is a special feature called a key pair. If, for example, you wanted me to send you private messages, you could create a key for only you called a private key. You would give me and anybody else another key called a public key. Now, I could use the public key to jumble my message such that the only person that could unjumble it is you, with your private key. If anyone else got the jumbled message (including others with the public key) they could not unjumble (or decrypt) the message. It is a one-way jumble, hence it is called “asymmetric.”

When you hear “end-to-end encryption” what is being described is the use of the jumbling method to protect a message from one user to another. For instance, if I send a text to you through iMessage on my iPhone, my phone encrypts the message and passes it to Apple. Apple passes the encrypted message along to your iPhone which decrypts it. In this scenario, Apple is not only unwilling to intercept and decrypt our protected message, they are unable to do so. That is a very important point.

Back to the matter at hand. I have tremendous respect for Director Wray and the Bureau. I also agree that the problem that he faces is very difficult. But what he is asking Congress to do is to have companies like Apple build a mechanism into the service that allows them to decrypt your messages while they are in transmission. In the above scenario, even though Apple could remain unwilling, they would be compelled by court order to decrypt our messages.

Tapping, monitoring, and inserting federal agents into private citizens’ lives is an old solution with a high collateral impact. Encryption is not the problem and requiring companies to breach end-to-end encryption is not the solution.

Unfortunately, Director Wrays is trying to solve the problem of encryption. The FBI has been trying to get ahead of (or at least catch up with) private encryption since its inception. In this case, it is my belief that child trafficking is part strawman and part dog-whistle. In the best case scenario that I can imagine, he is trying to appeal to the sense of justice in a technologically ignorant Congress while overlooking the disclosure that the FBI is already capable of compromising the security on the vast majority of smart phones on the market, assuming they are not properly updated. If this scenario (again, my best case) is true, what he is doing is negligent. More likely it is a continued authoritarian privacy-rights erosion for the sake of pseudo-security. That is, the abolition of your right to private communication in favor of easing the FBI’s access to the “bad guys.”


Patterns, God, Parents

I tend to see patterns. “This guy listens to a lot of Tom Petty,” I once said to my wife while listening to one band or another. She just stared at me stoically and eventually accused me of “always ruining bands” for her by drawing comparisons. This was a fair accusation; I do always do that. As a defensive side-note, these comparisons would not bother everyone, but are pretty explosive to one that identifies closely with an Enneagram four. Nevertheless, I see patterns. And have a tough time shutting up about it.

I believe in God. Now, I am wrestling out most of the specifics. How much of my faith requires that I believe in a literal this or a transfigured that or a manifestation of the other thing? I don’t know. “What you believe about God is the single most important aspect of who you are.” These were the words of a minister I knew once. They still shoot through my brain from time to time, as I am sure he intended them to. Their meaning has evolved over time, though. Initially meaning something akin to “your value it tied to your zeal for the Baptist god.” Lower “g” intentional. This definition of the minister’s statement, likely not what he intended, eroded and changed into what I currently hold as a truth. “You are shaped by the archetype at the top of your belief system.” Sinners in the hands of an angry God look for penance, but often feel justified to punish those that do wrong. Those who believe they can elicit divine intervention through prayers and acts of faith tend to blame their own internal corruptions on a trickster devil while taking – at least partial – credit for the perceived good in their life. From where I stand now, most of these outcomes seem to be due largely to our archetypal hierarchy. We become like the thing we pursue.

I am a parent. “It is terrible! You’ll love it!” This was the advice of a wonderful customer my wife and I served when we had just discovered our son was gestating in Hannah’s abdomen. It has proven to be completely true. Our kids wreck us. They constantly turn mirrors on our broken hearts and make us feel naked. They hurt us with their now eviscerating back talk. They break my soap bar in half. FOR FUN! Honestly. Who does that? But they also make me laugh from a well in my soul that I have not drunk from in decades. They inspire me to take better care of my body so I can keep up with their level of play until I’m busy one day with grandkids. But there is one sort of mixture of these extremes that has recently brought me to write this post. They reveal to me that I am capable of shouldering them with too much. Too much knowledge. Too much responsibility. Too stern a response. I have learned – painfully, slowly, and badly – to know my kids and give them enough. Enough to challenge them. Enough to interest, but not overwhelm. Enough to show them the boundaries.

And this is the point in the form of wondering out loud, but using your brain to do it. I wonder if the suffering and hardship we experience in life is not a means to allow us, generation after generation, to improve mankind until we are ready to be shouldered with the weight of “real life.” What if the end is not intended to be, as I was taught, an Earth destroyed in fire and built again? What if we are building the world now? One kindness on the previous one. One mercy after the next. What if our archetype was, in part, a good father that knows what we need in order to challenge us, interest us, and show us boundaries? I wonder is that minister was right and that “what you believe about God is the single most important aspect of who you are.”