The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

I read an article called “China’s AI Awakening” because I find AI technology amazing (side-note: I fear for humanity, seriously) but here was a funny paragraph in the article.

Across the capital, in fact, I notice a remarkable amount of interest in artificial intelligence. In one restaurant, for instance, I find a machine that takes my picture and then supposedly uses AI to determine how healthy I am. This seems completely impossible, but the machine says I’m in great shape before suggesting that I have plenty to eat.

I think the world is RIPE for a new variation on magic elixirs, and the new-fangled magic elixir is technology as a whole, but AI, deep learning, machine learning, whatever label you want to slap on something that isn’t actually any of those things.

I remember hearing on the radio a thing about this automaton that played chess, and was incredible at it. And this was around 1790. It turns out that there was actually a person hidden underneath this automaton and it was controlling the machine. There was actual intelligence and craftiness put into the design, but only about 10% was that … and then it was 90% smoke and mirrors. I think the new age charlatan will come to your house (electronically or otherwise) telling you that here’s this special $10,000 toilet that’ll tell you how your diet is based on monitoring your … um, output. And really all it will do is make beeping noises and light up some little buttons and then say something which is OF COURSE true like, ‘you should probably eat more veggies, dude.’

woman holding teacup

Psst. Smoke and mirrors is corporate speak for bullshit.

Or maybe it’ll be a smart watch for $5,000 which is really just a Garmin but with some apps loaded on it that do things like say, ‘Based on your heart rate we have detected that your genetic history is … mixed.’ And you’ll go, ‘oh wow, thanks watch, tell me more!’ and it’ll say some bland stuff that applies to that 70% that’s in the middle of the bell curve and someone who’s actually FROM Africa, and their whole ancestry is straight up Africa will go, ‘the hell? What’re you saying, watch?’

My point in all of this is … technology is cool, and terrifying, and be afraid of it when wielded by corporations or governments, but be skeptical of anything you as an individual can afford that tells you it can do wonderful things.

But anyway while you’re here I’ve got this app I created where you take a few quizzes and it’ll match you up with your soulmate. It’s just $99 a month to have the app and the only reason it’s not like one shot and you’re done is because, well it’s pretty technical I’d hate to bore you with the details. But just imagine that soulmate. Pretty great, right?


The idea for this speech is ‘Speaking After Dinner.’ It’s an 8-10 minute speech. So uh … enjoy?

The Precise Moment

Who here has a hobby that they love?

(Wait for answers.)

Ok, what is it? Are you good at it? Does it take work?

Who here has someone that you love?

(Wait for answers.)

Are you good at loving that person? Does it take work?

I think the idea of ‘love at first sight’ is silly. SILLY! You can look at someone and at first sight know the answers to some pretty simple questions like, ‘do I like looking at this person?’ Yes, this is great, I’m soon going to be entering creepily staring territory. Or maybe it’s a no, not so much, how can one person look so creepy?

But LOVE at first sight? Love can’t be reached so easily. That’s diminishing what love is, in my opinion. Love is work. Love is enjoyable work, but it is work. You have to KNOW something to love it, and you can’t know something with a look. I’ve heard that you can’t know if you love someone until you experience the four seasons with that person. Those aren’t literal seasons but emotional ones. Have you gone through ecstatic highs, or heart-wrenching lows? Some people could be easy to love when they’re in a certain place, but people don’t stay in one place.

Now, switching from my emotional side talking to my engineering side – here is an interesting question! What was the exact moment you fell in love? Because there WAS an exact moment. You probably didn’t catch it, though. There you were, however many months into knowing this person and they grab a straw and pretend to be a unicorn and boop – there it went, the switch flipped from ‘not in love’ to ‘in love.’ That unicorn impression was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Yes, there were many long conversations, many rounds of putt-putt, maybe a vacation where you joined his or her family that preceded that unicorn impression but all of that stuff just got you 99% toward in love. And now here you are, officially, actually, really and truly IN. LOVE.

And maybe some of us are wise, and intuitive, and forward thinking and we can see things quickly and say things to ourselves like, “I’m going to marry this person.” But I would suggest that people think or say that BEFORE they’re in love, they’re just looking at their emotional histogram.

(Draw histogram)

And saying ok, yep, the results are clear, I will eventually end up in love with this person so I’m all clear to say something to my best friend like ‘hey this person and I are gonna get married.’

BUT, say you have only uncovered two of the four seasons at that point and you are soon going through one of those seasons, we’ll call it fall, and it turns out this person only eats Cinnamon Toast Crunch. WOAH. RED FLAG. Not cool. You broach the topic, ‘hey sweetie, hey darling, hey potential love of my life, you’re 30 now … so I bought you a cereal that is just a teensy bit less unhealthy because I don’t want you dead at 40.’ And the person throws a table over and then consumes a whole family size box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch as a coping mechanism.

Yikes. Marriage daydream cancelled.

But I posed a question that I like. What was the MOMENT you fell in love? Does anyone care to share?

(Wait for answers)

Or, perhaps an easier question, what was the moment you realized you loved someone?

(Wait for answers)

I can tell you the moment I realized I loved my wife, and it is definitely indicative of my engineering side. I think it was early in the year, maybe around this time of year even, and I was thinking about what I’d be doing. SxSW? A music festival in Houston in June? California with my family in July? And then I realized. Wait. A. Minute. Lauren’s not a conditional! Previously when I thought about plans in the future I would think, ‘if Lauren and I are together then this will be the plan … if we’re not, this will be the plan.’ Sounds cold, but I was factoring in when she would or wouldn’t join me on trips. But here I was thinking about all of these plans and Lauren was there, there was no question in my mind. I HAD to conclude that I was in love. Woah. Unexpected. And then, of course, the next natural step was to ask her to marry me because there was no sense delaying the tax advantages.

Now you have to figure out … did I really think that? Am I that kind of person? I’ll leave that to you.

In college I actually asked my family one of the questions I’ve asked you – what was the EXACT moment you fell in love? I was fascinated by the idea that there was some particular moment in time where you went from 99% to 100% … My mom tried to answer but said she remembered realizing when she was in love, but not the exact moment. My sister and brother-in-law both talked about moments when they realized things. My dad walked in the room at that point and I asked him the same question. And I’ll add, my dad is not a touchy-feely type, he is much more of a smart alec type. Remember that when you hear this answer. When asked, ‘do you know the exact moment you fell in love with mom?’ He replied without missing a beat, ‘it was the first time I saw her topless.’

Ah. Cherish these family memories.

Today is Valentine’s Day. Tonight, find someone or something that you love and think about how good and nice it is to have something to love. Cherish that, work at that, and that hard work will only pay dividends.

Attn: Ellen (2/27/19)




Back (apologies for my handwriting!)



The text of the postcard is

Dear Ellen,

I bet if there was a chimp standup comic people would describe their style as derivative of Gallagher/Carrot Top. Props and the audience needing to be covered in a protective sheet.

Sincerely, OR

Why am I doing this?


The Sliding Scale of Old

Recently I was reading about things that are happening from 12 to 24 months when I read something crazy in the book. Apparently kids don’t fully grasp the concepts of yesterday and tomorrow until age six! SIX! Isn’t that nuts! That means for six years of your life you were running around and you were confined to now or not now.

At age two kids do get yesterday and tomorrow on some scale. For example, if you had a bath yesterday and ice cream two weeks ago they may as well have happened in the same otherworldly concept of ‘yesterday.’ Because it’s all just past.

When talking to this toddler aged set about time I read a suggestion that you make it more relatable by saying things in their terms. ‘Christmas is 300 bedtimes away.’ (Or whatever it is.) Of course that wouldn’t float because 300 is just some random set of words. But if you said you’ll go to bed tonight, and then you’ll go to bed one more night, and then it’s Christmas! Then a kid can sort of get on board with that.

assorted silver colored pocket watch lot selective focus photo

Photo by Giallo on

My wife and sister both just had their birthdays which also brought up conversations of time. My sister’s age to me feels so GROWN UP even though I am just 3.5 years younger than her. But then I think about my age and my gut reaction is usually to think, ‘oh no, I’m old!’ but my rational mind has already begun to undo my youth and construct new concepts around ‘old.’ You see … it’s a sliding scale.

When you’re young enough someone just one year older than you is ‘old.’ As you get older, maybe you’re a freshman in high school and the seniors seem ‘old.’ Keep getting older, say you’re thirty, and now you really have to approach this logically. Thirty approached AWFULLY fast, you think to yourself, so I can’t call forty old because I’ll be there in no time and really … it’s not old. How about fifty? (See, your brain doesn’t even let you increment in small numbers any more! Going up by tens!) I mean … fifty does seem kinda old but … I don’t know … retirement isn’t til 65 (I hope) so maybe 65 is old? Is 65 old?

It gets confusing negotiating with yourself to not feel ‘old’.

All of this sums up to one important conclusion. Self, you’re old. So buckle up, oldie, because you’ll only get older and older until (hopefully) you reach ancient status, and then if you’re lucky, decrepit. Then, at that age, 1 year will equal 1 minute in toddler time, or something along those lines. It’s a complex formula and I forgot it because, you guessed it, old age.

Messing With Mike Pence

You know how Mike Pence is famously stupid? Especially in regard to homosexual people, and women?

I really hope there are at least a few White House staffers who are mildly intelligent and seizing this opportunity. Just THINK of the insane stereotypes you could make up and he would believe!

Especially about lesbians, because they represent the common area of the Venn diagram of topics where Mike Pence has reached a critical mass level of stupid.

  • Tell him that lesbians ONLY use spoons … And then prove it by saying, ‘have you ever SEEN a lesbian eating a steak?’
  • Tell him that gay men are 70% more likely to own pet lizards, and you’ll see some weird new Indiana lizard tax
  • Tell him that it’s time to re-read the Bible and recognize that he’s got a few things wrong, and that it’s ok that he’s gay and to quit expressing his repression in such awful ways
  • Tell him that his weird mildly constipated, he’s feeling better than / the room is too bright look has been co-opted by the gay community and he’s going to have to find a new resting face
alphabet arts and crafts conceptual creativity

Photo by Pixabay on

Attn: Ellen (2/20/19)




Back (apologies for my handwriting!)



The text of the postcard is

Dear Ellen,

I’ve heard that ‘snitches get stitches’ but my question is – why!?

Like, my cousin told the police about this thing that happened and some guy went to court and it was super dramatic and then the night before my cousin was going to testify he was shaving and cut off three fingers! Clumsy much?!

How is the correlation between snitching and clumsiness so strong!?

Sincerely, OR

Why am I doing this?


Holds remote to head, ‘hello?’

That’s right boys and girls, ladies and gents, the kid is mimicking us more and more these days. And that includes phone impressions.

Today I’ll be sharing about the 17th month which had some really awesome, and really unpleasant firsts. Let’s dive in.

One of the great firsts happened one morning on a whim. The kiddo was playing in the kitchen, and I was sitting on the floor either looking at my phone or admiring him (really, it’s one or the other … and I ought to kick the phone habit). I held out my arms and asked, ‘can I have a hug?’ and what do you know – he stopped playing, crawled over to me and onto my lap. I was blown away. First – YOU CAN UNDERSTAND WHAT I JUST ASKED? And second, you actually DID what I asked? Amazing.

Later in the day I had my wife ask the same question and sure enough, he responded again … so it wasn’t just some fluke.

I told my mom about this and she mentioned a similar story with my brother. She was laying on the floor near him and realized he needed a change. She said, ‘oh I’m so tired … will you just grab a clean diaper for me?’ And lo and behold my brother crawled over to the diapers, grabbed one, and crawled back.

It’s incredibly strange to spend months, months and months and months talking to this tiny person and then all the sudden one day boom, here they are responding to whole sentences. I feel like I can see my son trying to focus more on what I’m saying, too. And sometimes I feel like I’m responding with a few too many words. If you have traveled to a place where you speak a tiny bit of the language, you might have experienced what I imagine my son (and all kiddos) experience in life for a while. Where they do or say something and they expect you to respond with a word they know like, ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ But instead you say a BUNCH of words rapid-fire like, ‘well not right now darlin’ but maybe in a bit when mom’s out of the shower.’ My son just stares and I can practically see the eyes saying ‘does. not. compute.’


When trying to fold laundry, try just giving your kid a bucket of toys and maybe he’ll have a blast throwing them over the couch while yelling ‘BOWWW’ with each throw.

My wife was watching the little language man one day when she noticed he looked tired so she asked, ‘do you want to take a nap?’ and he nodded yes. Amazing. It’s been fun to get to ask more and more questions, and see him respond. He helps pick up toys, he kicks this big red ball we have (with mom and dad’s standing assistance) and more.

It is varying levels of helpful, too. For example, he will clean up toys with me … which is wonderful, and then he’ll grab the box, turn it upside down and dump it. That is less helpful. I also asked him to help me put up dishes one day. ‘Will you take this spoon, and put it in that cabinet?’ (Note: we don’t keep our spoons in a cabinet, but he can reach the cabinet so …). And what do you know, he actually took the spoon and put it in a cabinet! Not the cabinet I asked, but still, pretty good! Now it’s almost like a mystery when you open kitchen cabinets to see what strange treasures you’ll find.

And now switching topics entirely, one of the most fun days of this past month was when we were still in the Phoenix area for Christmas. We headed to a fancy new acquarium there which the kid LOVED. He would stand at the glass, making his most delighted faces, squawking his most delighted squawks, and in general just eating up every bit of it. A large shark would leisurely glide by and he’d press his face close and say ‘woah!’ (A new word which is a favorite. And It’s not like just sharks inspire that, dropping his pacifier aka ‘baba’ also inspires saying that word … or seeing Dido, our name for our robot vacuum …)

Another hysterical and strange and sweet moment came with some of the kiddo’s cousins. He has a 6 year old and almost 3 year old cousin we stayed with for a few nights* and he adores watching older kids play. The 3 year old and him had a strange very close staring contest that led to … kisses? Maybe? The kiddo gives kisses now (something that kicked off right after 18 months) but it is just him pressing the general mouth part of the face against your face. There are no kissy lips, just a sort of vague notion of a kiss. (It is adorable, by the by.)

*Ok so. The few nights at my sister’s place. As mentioned my sister has two kids and one night after everyone had gone to bed, around midnight or so, the little monster woke up. No worries, let’s comfort him, hand him a baba that he inevitably throws out of his crib (he starts the night with five in there, and often by the time you get him up he’s down to one). Ok, ok … nope, didn’t work. My wife and I were concerned about staying very quiet so we brought him into our bed with us and that just seemed to wake him up. He went from sleepy to PLAYTIME. After maybe 30 minutes of failing with that my wife headed to the couch and I stayed in bed with him because I often have better luck getting him to konk out. There was a brief period where I thought, ok … ladies and gentlemen … this … could … be … But then he sat up, took out his pacifier, said ‘BOWWWWWWW’ and then threw himself onto my chest**. (He sorta plays my chest like a drum and I respond by saying ‘ow! oof! ouch! oh no! whoof!’ to every hit … It’s pretty fun.) I head out to the family room where my wife had taken up on a couch and it’s about 2 am. He’s WIDE AWAKE, we’re baffled, and we figure he needs to cry for a while before he’ll settle and sleep so we decide to head to my parent’s where we won’t wake the house with his cries. Of course, this created a strange morning for my sis and her husband when they woke up to a deserted room and no word from us. But hey, at least they got a solid night’s sleep.

**The Jason Bourne movies have a real enjoyment of what I’ll call improvised weapons. Whoever the fight scene coordinators were really liked Jason Bourne being in some environment, and then Bourne would pick up any old item around him and use THAT as a weapon. Tea spoon? Try LETHAL tea spoon! Old sneakers? Try old sneakers of DEATH! Anyway. The thing is, my son is like this, only he makes anything around him a toy. It’s 2 am, he’s supposed to be snuggling with me to soothe him and put him back to sleep but then, woah dad … your ear is so BENDY! That’s super cool! Let me just see how many directions I can bend it! And woah, look at how smushy your nose is! I should try smushing it, then taking out my pacifier and saying ‘nose nose nose’ and then smushing mine and saying ‘nose nose nose.’ It’s not ideal when you’re trying to get him to sleep, but kudos, kid, on the improvised toys.

And now for another quick transition we’ll jump back to Colorado, where vacation is over, and it’s the kiddo’s first day at a new classroom. Scary! This is just a chance for me to express my gratitude to the teachers there. The kiddo had some very sad dropoffs which are awful ways to start your day. Saying goodbye to your darling little creature who is crying and reaching out for you. The teachers would take a picture of the little fella playing happily or smiling or just some variation on the opposite of how I last saw him. I’d drop him maybe 745 and then around the time I got to work and got settled, boom, there I’d have a picture of my sweet little fella. It just did wonders for me not hearing his cries bounce around in my head as I began my workday.

One sort of amusing at this point (key: AT THIS POINT) thing that the kiddo has started is what I’ll call ‘tantrum light.’ This takes a few forms:

1 – sitting on his tush, legs out front, arms to his sides, and he twists his torso back and forth swinging his arms wildly while making a very frustrated/unhappy face and he makes generally ‘not pleased’ noises
2 – getting into the crawling position and then kicking one leg out randomly at the air (this was short lived but a real treat to witness)

While these were and are entertaining … boy do I dread the day of the real tantrums.

The kiddo is an only child, and it shows in many ways. Probably lots of them are ways I don’t even realize. But one that I do think exhibits the fact that his every need is catered too probably too quickly is his use of the word ‘help.’ Or ‘hep’ as he says it. He’ll go up to one of our couches and try to climb up while saying, ‘hep hep hep’ over and over because guess what, we probably will come by to help him. (Although now he CAN climb up if he goes to the middle where it’s sunken in.) Likewise, when trying to open any of a number of containers he will continue to struggle mightily while chanting ‘hep hep hep.’ It’s like a tennis player’s grunt at this point. Is it helping? Maybe not, but they’re going to do it all the same. (Same goes for the word ‘open’ … this is heard especially frequently in front of the kitchen pantry door. He’ll just sit there, trying to pry it open while saying ‘open open open’ … But bad news as of next month, he can now open that door. Shoot.)

Oh boy. This is already a whole lot of words and we’re about to embark on a crazy story. Future self, I hope you’ve got some free time.

One day my wife called because our daycare had called her, the kiddo was sick. She was wrapped up for the rest of the day and I was able to flex, so off I headed. I said confidently to my coworkers, I’ll get him, put him down for a nap, then work more. One guy said, ‘IF he naps.’ Oh indeed, friend. When I got to daycare he had thrown up a second time, and he was by himself (away from the other kids for good reason) looking just absolutely wiped out and a little afraid. He was sort of whimpering and just the saddest little sight. I picked him up and comforted him as best I could. When we got out to my car I was a little afraid to drive home because I thought he was about to throw up again, but eventually we hit the road. Once home we let the dog out and boom, the mood struck and out came a good bit more vomit. The poor little guy perked up after that though and he was feeling very playful briefly. Eventually that stopped and I calmed him down and put him down for a nap. Thirty minutes later he woke up immediately upset and crying, I ran upstairs, picked him up and there came the ‘I’m about to throw noise’ (hereafter known as ‘the noise’) so I rushed us to the bathroom where he threw up some on/in the tub. Phew, crisis mildly contained. I got his and my shirts off (puke was on them) and then I wrapped us up in a blanket and laid down to have him nap on me. Twenty or so minutes into his nap he’s up and the noise is again with us, so we rush to a tub and he again throws up, but now it’s much, much less. Having gotten that out he snuggles in and we lay back down … twenty minutes later it’s the same story. My wife had called our pediatrician who advised us to come in after a certain number of times throwing up and we had hit that point and then some.

At the doc we had him take a drug that was supposed to settle his stomach so that he could begin to take on fluids instead of rejecting them (always a plus). He and I begin walking around to see if the drug will hold before we try some water … And that was a big nope. He threw up maybe three or four more times during our doc visit, at this point he was ‘throwing up’ (there was practically nothing coming out) every 15 – 20 minutes. The doc had another doc look for a second opinion and they said, ‘ok, head on home, hopefully with a familiar environment he’ll relax and be ok … But if he throws up JUST ONCE MORE … Head to the ER, get him hooked up to a bag of fluids with an IV and he’ll be a-ok.’

Fingers crossed we got in the car and began the … doll, doll … he’s throwing up on me.

We didn’t even make it to buy Powerade for the little fella.

We got to the ER at maybe 6 and we left at maybe 9 or 930. His bedtime is usually around 630 so this was quite a night for the little guy. When we told one of the ER docs that he did want to drink, he would point to cups and say, ‘awa, awa’ she said that was heartbreaking and you know what? I’m inclined to agree. Really, this would be a tough thing to write if I wasn’t just listening to him giggling and playing happily with my wife.

The IV was rough for the little guy, and his little arm would bend and it would stop the drip. And BOY did his belly go from depleted to as big as I’ve ever seen. They ended up doing one big bag, and a smaller bag, and the first bag had zofram (to settle his stomach). I managed to get him to fall asleep on my chest which was great for letting the drip do its work without interruption. After the first bag, I think, he woke up, looked at a big hanging light over our bed and said, ‘airpane.’ It was wonderful to hear because it meant he’d finally come back to himself a little bit. The little fella had been INCREDIBLY dehydrated and it happened so fast.

It was a heartbreaking evening seeing his poor little body on that big hospital bed, his little arm with an IV hooked up, knowing how absolutely wiped out and destroyed his body had gotten with dehydration. But wait, the fun didn’t stop there …

The good news for my wife and I, not only did we get to see him experience this awful bug/sickness/whatever … but we got to experience it first hand too! My wife’s folks happened to have a visit planned for the weekend after all this and my wife’s stomach was off all weekend, then I was hit HARD on Monday night (4 hours of everything leaving my body, to the point that body parts started to tingle … that was new. Apparently a sign of dehydration – neat!). And then my wife’s mom got sick after their visit. Our own little cruise ship.

BUT! Aside from spreading germs the trip was a smash hit because we took the kiddo sledding for the first time! It was a blast! I think he enjoyed it, we’ve got pictures of him making little silly faces and/or smiling while sledding with mom or dad. And I KNOW he loved watching myself or my wife sled by ourselves. It really amused him watching us. He is very good at being entertained by other kids at play, and for once mom and dad were seen as kids.

One exciting thing that happened this month (last thing – promise!) is a new set of swim lessons. It’s the same class he and I had done before, the class runs for 6 – 18 month olds, and previously all the kiddos were around his age … but this time he is THE BIG KID! (For once in his life! He’s perpetually tiny at doc visits.) And one thing that’s fun is he really gets the instructions much more. I sit him up right outside of the pool and he actually wiggles a little to fall in to the water toward me. And we do this thing where we form a circle and pass a ball around and he just constantly reaches for the ball no matter who is holding it (it’s pretty funny). The other little babies don’t care, and here is my greedy little kid reaching out saying ‘ba … ba … ba.’ We also do some things where you hold the kiddo and have them kick and … whaddya know, he actually started kicking on his own, too! He’ll be swimming in no time! (I mean … we can dream, right?) The most fun thing though was blowing bubbles. The teacher stressed the parents doing this over and over so I did and dunked his face so that his mouth was underwater but not his nose … he loved it, even though I’m pretty sure he was drinking pool water 90% of the time. But then … BUBBLES! He actually blew bubbles! And the next time my wife gave him a bath (the next day maybe) I heard him busting a gut laughing and it was because he’d blow bubbles in the bath, then laugh hysterically. Such an absolute delight to hear.

Ok, till next time chatty dad.

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