Sean Riley

Because memory re-writes itself on every recalling, why not journal to note this change.  Not to ledger growth and diminishment but to see a bigger story we never knew we where in.

Listening to Music by Sean, the Podcast.

July 16, 2020

In the days of mixtapes, I would also sometimes record a single original song and send it to a friend. This podcast continues that project started over half a lifetime ago. Listening to Music by Sean is about meaning, wonder, connection and loss sounded out through music one song at a time. Each episode introduces an original piece of music revealing the conceptual and production context in which it was created. All music and sounds are original and produced using analogue synthesis, sequences, samples and my voice.

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If you see me, weep.

April 4, 2020

"If you see me, weep" is an encryption carved into a stone resting on the bottom of an river in the Czech Republic.  It is an ancient memorial to famines past and a warning that if the water level drops low enough to reveal it's message, tragedy is sure to follow.  Such hunger stones show the flow of a deeper slower time, a pace in which the entirety of our lives is but a finger snap or a spark flying from a slow burning log.   I have no idea what the handwriting on the wall is for our age, only that this pause is unsettling.  However, I take comfort that regardless today's uncertainty, we are part of a much larger, slower story. 


March 13, 2020

I share life with an uninvited dark companion, who wakes me at midnight stirring my thoughts while whispering one worst end after another.

He will interrupt perfect moments racing my pulse at the same time as pushing hard against my chest. He is with me every moment of every day, yet sometimes he steps back leaning against the wall or wonders far ahead acting as lookout.

Through the years, I've grown accustom to his manner and would miss him if he left. We are friends now, kinder to each other.

When the world tightens and spins faster, I see the faint blurry outlines of everyone's dark companion shadowing their every step; and suddenly, my anxiety is comforted by the company of so many others.

Negotiating Uncertainty

March 12, 2020

We all negotiate uncertainty differently.  Some of us explode into action finding comfort in the frantic motion of stocking the pantry.  Some find peace by accusing others of panicking. There are those who disguise real fear as anger by reciting their well worn political rote. 

A few of us get very very quiet holding our eye's tightly shut.  There are those who explain (mostly to themselves) that what is different is actually more evidence that things are the same.  

And, thankfully, there are those few who view collective uncertainty as a shared moment . . . an opportunity . . . to express love and friendship.  

I'm grateful to those who are generous with each other in startling times.  I am grateful for those who allow themselves to be touched by the better angels of their nature. 

Political Responder

March 11, 2020

Use the following algorithm to give the proper political response to anything someone else might say.

How to Give a Compliment

February 9, 2020

"You're a genius!" "You are so pretty!" "You do the best work in the office." Hearing such statements always made be bristle a bit. But why? I mean getting such a compliment feels good. It provides a tiny happiness hit, as that drop of dopamine is released and sweetens your bloodstream. So much so, that some communication consultants tout compliments as an efficacious tool to motivate staff in the workplace and customers in the marketplace. Except in the long run, it doesn't work. Simple compliments bribe the moment at the expense of that relationship's future. They do not "enliven" or invite life to the exchange, but rather cheapen the moment by subtly dehumanizing the target of the compliment by imposing a category onto that person in the form of a sugary feel good reward. Complimenting to motivate is manipulation. A culture that motivates through the reward of compliments is a culture rooted in domination and control.

Don't compliment, express gratitude:

  • Describe the action.
  • Detail what need was fulfilled by that action
  • Reveal the positive feeling that the action created for you


Your suggestion of using a SSD for the data storage arrays has reduced the backup sync time significantly making me feel much more confident about our backup process.

It really made me happy to see how your patience with the angry customer deescalated a potential troublesome situation.

I know what you are thinking: This is wordy and a lot more work. Well, it is. However taking the effort to express more detail and touching the 3 points (of describing the action, problem solved, and how you feel) in your own words will enliven the discussion and invite more possibilities to the moment. It provides information to the recipient encouraging the behavior for which you are grateful. Additionally, and especially for companies worried about workplace culture, expressing gratitude is far less creepy than complimenting. At least you will see less eye rolling from the others in the room.

For more see Marshal Rosenberg approach to Nonviolent Communication.

Spec of Dust

January 22, 2020

While grocery shopping I overheard one worker who was stacking potatoes say to the other arranging cans of organic black beans, "Yeah but, how do we know that the entire world isn't merely a spec of dust floating in a giant god turtle's eye?"

10,247 days left

January 6, 2020

The projected average life span for a male in my generation is just over 82 years or 30,000 days. 30,000 days to grow, learn, work, live, love, and give. 30,000 days to make enough meaning to be remembered. After doing the math: I have 10,247 days of life left. That feels so abundant. That is 20,494 cups of coffee, 13,991 glasses of wine, 1,260 books, 71,729 times to say "I love you", 1,559 mornings sleeping in late on Sunday, at least 16,171 meals shared with people I love. And against all of that, just 1 last day.


December 13, 2019

Friend: So what were your parents, what's your heritage?

Me: Hmm, I was adopted and I don't know anything about my birth parents, except that they were young, so I guess I'm young. My heritage is young. 

Friend: Why don't you get a genetic test and find out what you REALLY are?

Me: Because I prefer to live a life as if Schrödinger's cat is BOTH alive and dead at the same time.

Friend: *Stares at me not blinking*

Fake Magic

December 8, 2019

I'm not a magical thinker, except when I am. Fake magic is real, especially when it creates wonder and hope. The fake magic of love opens a portal out of thin air to a brighter, warmer world by conjuring confidence. I am confident because I'm loved. My world is warm and bright because someone chose me. Fake magic is real.

Unexpected Consequence

August 29, 2019

I thought Airbnb would disrupt the hotel industry. It didn't. It disrupted the home rental industry by creating more profitable (and potentially less troublesome) people to stay within lower income housing. A boom if you own property. However, a bust if you rent. The results of this increase competition for living spaces is higher rents for some of the most "at risk" people, very likely contributing to a spike in homelessness. An unexpected consequence.

Future Lifestyle Design

August 22, 2019

Maybe the magical thinking of "The Secret" is not that far fetched after all. Someday soon, the mundane aspects of our lives will be incorporated into thinking, future predictive, systems that anticipate our wants and needs. Such "Lifestyle Venders" will provide a full "Biome (TM)" services to their subscribers from everyday toiletries, food, entertainment, transportation, medical and even social filtering, like Amazon for everything.

For example subscribers of the "Mystic Magic Lifestyle (TM)" will experience vender system's "Subtle Hand" facilitating serendipity by making "chance" encounters with other subscribers whose interaction is calculated to provide you an "Upgraded Lifestyle Experience (TM)." Imagine, You are thinking about getting an Australian Shepard puppy. So through logistic manipulation, your Lifestyle Vender places you in line next to someone who is: conversationally compatible, got a new Australian Shepard, and just happens to be wearing an "I'm an Aussie Pup Mom" T-Shirt.

In this world: The Secret's "Law of Attraction" is not a mystical universe giving what you want through your sincere visualization. No, it is just a feature of that Lifestyle Vender's OS, available through an upgraded subscription model.

That Fresh New Job Smell

August 12, 2019

After all the countless hours of searching, preparation, interviews, weighing the cost and benefits, considering the existential implications, reviewing the offer packages, taking the leap and committing to the new job, rapping up all the old job's tasks, tearing down the office, saying tearful goodbyes and thanks, telling the difficult and heartfelt exit interview truths, surrendering the keys and parking permit, re-writing the autobiographical narrative, waking up 2 hrs earlier, and learning the new commute. After all of this she is sitting in her car awash with expectant anticipatory nerves like the first day of grammar school. Then, on the morning breeze Allison sensed the subtle and delicious sent of gardenia rather than the acrid and overwhelming stink of parking lot urine. Success DOES smell sweet. Congratulations on your new Job Allison.

Fear of Boredom

August 12, 2019

As a child, I remember sulking into my parents room one summer afternoon, slumping into a chair and declaring in a sigh: "I'm bored." Without a beat, my mom said: "Well, I guess you're boring. Go outside and pull weeds, that will fix it."

Growing up, I've been sold the idea to fear boredom. To dread it as an uncomfortable claustrophobic perhaps even painful state that lurks in the grocery store line, lull in the conversation, long file download, or every "in-between" moment . . . all of which can be instantly remedied by an immediate hit of distraction by my phone or browser. Yet now that distraction is under fire, blamed for burning away attention and creativity, shallowing relationships and perhaps dismantling society one meme at a time.

So, I'm curious about boredom. Did our ancestors get board while trying to stay alive on the serengeti? Or, is this listless state a product of living in a safer and more convenient world? Is being board even bad? Or, perhaps, is it something that makes space for great things, an invitation for innovation.

Is Less More?

August 11, 2019

I want to have fewer but better things, less but deeper thoughts and invest in friends that matter. A transactional world values quantity, its wealth generated through the exchange of more and more. This is not sustainable. Economies collapse and people burnout. There must be a different way. Is there such a thing as non-transactional wealth generation? I'm curious, what types of interactions create tangible value beyond the cost of both individuals involved in the exchange?

The Closest Worry Wins

August 7, 2019

As immediate suffering and risks are reduced, individuals can redirect their concerns to more long-term and abstract dangers. For example a starving person doesn’t fret over climate change and an individual in excruciating pain will find it difficult to consider egalitarian campaigns.

Wisdom from Uncle Bob

July 20, 2019

Laws of programing . . . according to Uncle Bob:

  1. Do not harm
  2. Write good code: The code that I produce will always to be my best work. I will not allow defective code to remain in an application
  3. Prove each release is sound: I will produce with each release a quick and easy test to prove that the code works as promised and doesn't break the existing build.
  4. Take small bites: Work in small steps, quick commits and frequent merges.
  5. I will fearless and continually improve my projects and never degrade them.
  6. I will do all I can to increase my and other's productivity and never impend other's productivity.
  7. I will insure I can cover for others and they can cover for me. Reduce cilo knowledge.
  8. I will produce accurate estimate. (best case, worst case, nominal case)
  9. I will never stop learning and perfecting my craft. To me human, is to continually make things better.

The French Know Drag

July 3, 2019

The French know drag. The Cabaret Michou dinner theater has hosted men spectacularly impersonating famed woman performers for 65 years. What an experience. 80 well dressed mostly Parisians of all types and ages (not just those in the community) sat closely together at long thin dining tables in an opulent mirrored dining room screaming the "Early Liberate Rumpus," style. Waiters dressed in playful sailor suits and thick mascara served us Michou's signature blue sparkling aperitif, bottles of wine and a multi-course formal french dinner. After the last plate was bused, the lights went out, and a man warms the crowd with a traditional french cabaret anthem. Then, our waiters now completely transformed, performed the finest drag I've ever witnessed for nearly two hours. Bet Midler, Barbra Streisand, a perfect Celine Dion, and other French performers dazzled and amazed on the tinny illuminated stage. It was an evening of celebration and connection. We were perhaps the only American's in the room, yet we felt the sincere welcome of membership and inclusion, from everyone there. Once the evening was over, we hugged and kissed our dinning neighbors feeling as though we found long lost family. I could not recommend the experience enough.


June 20, 2019

Other'ing is the identification of an individual or group as not one of us. Maybe this comes from human's tribal roots or our hardwired desire to find advantage in nearly every situation. We do it and organizations in power exercise the identification of group-based difference. People like us hate people like them.

User Center Design

June 17, 2019

A fresh shiny new project appears and my first instinct is to design from the inside out: To methodically arrange core and subsequent functions into aptly organized classes with precisely descriptive naming conventions. To reflect deeply on data structures prioritizing efficiencies that will scale while not limiting yet to be conceived options. I'll ask: Laravel or Node? React or Angular? Can this application run faster and cheaper using a server'less architecture?

And then I stop and remember that ultimately, this application need to interact with people delivering on the promise to fulfill their purpose.

So for this project, I'll design from the outside in. I'll start by understanding the task people need to accomplish with the application. Then I'll create a "functional" interface with attention on its interaction with the people using it. When I say functional I mean that the forward customer facing side will appear to work. That interaction will change the interface and reveal needs and issues we yet to consider.

In 1770 chess playing robot was fabricated to the marvel of those who witnessed it's operation. A machine in the shape of man in Turkish attire (often called The Turk) sitting at a desk could play chess. Rather than a fanciful intelligent steam punk mechanism, the Turk harbored a secret stowaway conceded inside who operated the machinery giving the illusion of a chess playing manikin. Like the actor Kenny Baker stuffed inside the original r2d2 droid, the robot's OS was a person.

The same approach can be applied to application development. Create a functional shell, even if it is powered manually and watch your customers work with what you built. Your initial attention and priority should be on that interaction and follow where it leads. Because isn't design ultimately listening closely to what people need using your application need?


June 15, 2019

While anticipating our trip to Paris: I cannot wait for my first Parisian meal. The French have a word: terroir which roughly translates into territory when the discussion flows to wine and food. It is this ultimate provenance that "informs the bouquet flavor notes of wine . . . indicates that mixture of soil climate temperature geographical location," (Christina, Waters) that all combine to express themselves into a single glass of wine. I am coming to understand that in Paris the terroir applies not only to wine but extends to capture a restaurant's essence based on that establishment's sources of food, culinary touch, and even (possibly) down to the music preference of the chef. When discussing food, there is no American equivalent to the French term terroir with the possible blunt label of organic. As an American, food is understood as chemistry and economy, programed for mouth feel and flavor bliss. It's relationship is limited to the body of the eater and various metabolic signaling pathways it's ingestion produces. Every bite an equation solving between calories, carbohydrates, satisfaction and guilt. Whereas, to the French (at least in my idealized mental image of them), the meal is a sacrament to taste and discovery, it contributes and supports the conversation and overall relationship of those sharing it. I cannot wait for my first Parisian meal.

Paris is Burning

April 15, 2019

Notre Dame . . . I think it was the Greeks who defined genius not as personal intelligence, but as an inspired quality of place such as a point of shore, hidden brook or mountain vista. Such divine genius can descend to possess human made structures, such as a lonely abandon barn mouldering in a poppy field or a majestic cathedral made profoundly meaningful by faithful millions sheltering their belief under its stone spires for nearly a thousand years. I was touched by Norte Dame's splendor a crisp February morning 30 years ago. I was taken by its stone, history and permanence. Then, seeing the tower fall into flames felt like a sudden loss of faith . . . in nearly everything.

Which Story

February 8, 2019

If we take the time to look closely, the reason why we believe, is seldom the reason why we believe. They say the poles are moving and north is not quite north, and yet my compass still points to the mountain. They say the water and land is getting hotter, and yet I still freeze every morning. But I believe what they say is true. The world is big and no one can know everything about anything. So we muddle along telling stories to ourself that hold all the mismatched pieces together. I guess some stories are better than others, just as some worlds are warmer.

The Real Reason

February 6, 2019

Researcher Daniel Kahneman put forward the position that the human brain really functions through two systems: system 1 and system 2. The first running quickly and mostly automatically. If someone asks what is 2 plus 2, you will answer instantly, in fact you not be able to "un-answer.' Yet if you are asked what is the product of 17 and 79, system two would initiate directed, yet slower thought. We know ourselves through system 2, yet system 1 is who we really are. New ideas and skills, like driving, once thoroughly learned move from system 2 to system 1. So, the story people tell you for why they did what they did, is seldom the real reason for their action, it is system 2 accounting for system 1.


February 2, 2019

Neccos were a horrible round dusty wafer candy tasting like sweet chalk and wrapped in a brittle wax paper about the size of a roll of quarters. Invented in 1947, this confection was enjoyed by civil war soldiers. I love them, but not entirely certain why. Perhaps because they are a taste of a different age, from an era of: steam engines, telegraphs and prospectors being lost in quicksand. They are surely the flavor of a different age for me: When I was 9 years old, my dad would pick me up from school to visit his construction job site. Surrounded by tractors, trucks and hammering we would share a roll while he teased the cement finishers. For me Necco wafers are forever linked the smell of diesel, open earth, and concrete dust, they taste like nostalgia. Recently bankruptcy found the New England Confectionery Company (Necco) and they stopped making Necco Wafers, as well as the valentine candy conversation hearts. It is rumored that the company who makes the florescent orange circus peanut candy may start making Neccos again, and the beloved crappy candy of my childhood will be saved. I hope so. For now, I am stocking up.

Where is true

February 1, 2019

To be true is to consider what is most terrifying, awake to what is most real, and to invite loss as a welcome companion. Those who are equal to every circumstance, are those who grow more generous with every parting. To truly love is to live in the promise of heartbreak, because every love will end, even those that last forever. So, I will consider this moment as if it passed away years ago, and I am now returning to savor its splendor noting every precious thing.

Mic Drop

January 23, 2019

In the old days after loosing an argument with Allison, I would march out of the room and slam the door. Now, I saunter out saying: "Alexa maximum volume. Alexa play Dixieland Band Music."


January 8, 2019

The diagnosis sits sealed in an envelope on the table and patiently waits until I am ready to hear it's judgement. I float between hope and fear of what will happen next. If I open the envelope now, nothing will change in this moment: the dishes will still be soaking in sink as the birds continue to sing outside. But my future may disappear.

Be a Lone Wolf

January 7, 2019

Pack wolves live for the pack and find cohesion in denigrating other packs. It is a deeply political existence. Lone wolves have to gather their own resources and are responsible for themselves, they ultimately become scientists.

An Amish Approach

December 30, 2018

In an interview with Keven Kelly, he described the Amish's relationship with technology. Rather than being just techno-phobic luddites, The Amish collectively decide which technology enhances what they most value in their chosen way of life. Family and community are essential values to these folks. Having three meals a day with their children until they grow up is a priority. So limiting transportation to horses keeps people within a limited radius . . . so their communities must be locally self sufficient. This ensures that family is seldom far enough to miss a meal together.

I am intrigued by the idea that a community collectively choose which technology to incorporate into their lives. Maybe it is not such a bad idea. While I don’t see myself sporting a neck beard driving a horse drawn buggy anytime soon, I do see engaging in a real thoughtful consideration of both media and technologies influence on my consciousness experience and relationships in life.

Marshall McLuhan phrase: “The Medium is the Message” has been repeated so often it’s nearly lost its punch, but today especially, I find it particularly applicable. So, McLuhan, sees the medium used to transfer a message as changing the experience one has with that message and ultimately the meaning of that message. Reading the story “feels” different than seeing the movie. So it is not such a stretch to see that the technology we use to interact with information and each other can change who we are.

We’ve all heard cautionary tails about the shallowing effect interaction with communicative technologies such as social media has on attention and thinking; which sound increasing like an old man yelling “you with your smartphone, get off my lawn!” But I believe that there is some truth here. I will just touch on one: Boredom. having instant access means that one never has to be bored. Yet boredom is the beginning of deep thought, solemnity, patience, wisdom and so many of the richer human experiences.

I’ve seen my tolerance of boredom reduced and my ability to access the slower deeper thought space of Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” so necessary in my work, harder to obtain. I’m wading in the warm comfortable shallows. It’s simple to point the finger at FaceBook as complicit in my increase hunger for interruption, but I think the real culprit may be more holistic.

Family Resemblance

November 23, 2018

I am fascinated by family resemblance. Siblings' likeness in appearance, expression or shape of silhouette delight me to see. Recently while at a public event, I saw large families all clearly cut from the same cloth moving together. There were the lean, bushy haired, sharp nosed folks standing solemnly together. And over there, I saw the round nosed chestnut haired husky people robustly jostling and playing. They only have to look at each other to know that they belong to each other. I love seeing this family resemblance.

Maybe, this resemblance is so interesting to me because it is something I do not have. I was an adopted only child with no children of my own . . . a complete genetic island who resembles no one I know. My heredity runs through choice: My parents chose me through adoption and I chose my family through marriage. My bloodline flowed through the sanguine yet evernesent medium of talk. Here language composes my family bloodline, the continual talk and stories shaped me into a Riley the way genes were not able.

On my mother’s last day, I remember staring at her hands and being startled by how much they resembled her mother’s hands. On this day, she could no longer talk, our great and nearly continual conversation was over, replaced by a loving silence. I do not resemble my mother: don’t have her hands, or chin, or stature. But I do have her voice and the richly painted world it creates.


November 7, 2018

Thanks so much for this moment. Thanks that in this moment I am not: suffering from excruciating pain, caught in war, starving in famine, unwelcome, unloved, alone and lost in the wilderness, or dying.

I love thanksgiving. It is the one holiday we all share, as we all have something to be thankful for. I am thankful for you. I am thankful for the cornucopia of possibilities that love and friendship bring.

I Voted

November 6, 2018

Today, I got to vote back in the old fire station where I cast my first ballot back when I was just 18. This is where I would (for many elections) dutifully cancel my mother’s vote, except went she got there after me and would cancel mine. I do miss Mom’s amused voice on the phone informing me that she just got back from the local fire station correcting my poll choices.

2 Second Rule

November 3, 2018

A neuroscientist recently wrote that the human present moment is about 2 seconds long. Consciousness resides within a 2 second window: your whole life in the time it would take to fall from a 6 story building or swallow a piece of steak. I guess in the wet workings of the brain, the conveyer belt moving experience into memory is 2 seconds long. I don’t know exactly what this means or how I feel about it, but I only have to endure this notion for about 2 heartbeats until something else occurs to me.

Empty Room

October 30, 2018

There’s an empty room with no walls, floor, or ceiling that contains everything. It all appears in here, everything that I know and everywhere I go, emerges in here in this empty room.

This is a busy bustling room so easily to get lost in. Something sparkling appears and I follow it down an aisle into another aisle and I suddenly realize I’m lost, but I’m still in the room. Is the room me or am I just a continual train of sparking somethings that appear one after another.

To my trans friends and family

October 24, 2018

To my trans friends and family: Thank you for being who you are. We need you. We are living in a moment of no, the hopeful river of growth feeding this land is being dammed by those who fear its fluidity. We need you now more than ever.

To those attempting to stop this progress: I say we are not identical plaster figurines made from identical moulds. Neither are we comfortably predictable algorithms standing quietly in line to be told who to be. Being human is not either/or. Authentic life is living in the single unique way only each of us can. Real love is connecting with another in that single unique way only each of us are able.

A few ancient maps would label unexplored territory as “Here Be Dragons.” Today, every acre of this world is known, mapped and photographed. Yet, we as a people have not fully explored and understood all who we are. There are dragons among us, not to be feared or made less but loved for the truth that they live and bring to all of us. Feel their fire, watch them soar and thank them for they make us more.


September 28, 2018

You say “patriotism" and I say "community. " You say “security" and I say "the distant future." You say "we deserve this" and I say "we should share this." You say “dangerous" and I say "freedom of expression." You say "protecting my family" and I say "discriminating against others." I say “love" and you say “vulnerable to infection.” We are neighbors in two very distant worlds. Is there a way to make a bigger world to include both of us?

Seize the King

September 18, 2018

Last night Allison and I saw “Seize the King” a minimal and spirited re-voicing of Shakespeare’s Richard III that emphasizes how the Bards classic rhymes with this political moment. Live procession and music counterpointed the cast’s powerful performance made for a compelling evening. I liked it and would recommend.

Mccain, A great tree has fallen

August 26, 2018

Mccain, A great tree has fallen

A great tree has fallen. Another sentry from my father’s generation has left his post for a well deserved rest.

War called and punished: while a jungle burned and a country grew impatient.

War called and punished: and a prisoner outlived his internment and eventually his party, the grit of honor compelling him forward.

We all claim greats as our own. If they aren’t on our side, then they are citizens of a higher community to which we all belong.

In this growing field of so many fallen greats, I wonder how is honor learned: on a mother's knee, at the end of a shovel, with the company of books and teachers, or in solitary confinement? Or perhaps, honor just happen while we continue to carry-on towards right.

Honor can be disagreeable, infuriating, yet it is always trustworthy. Honor is not easy for the possessor or those in it's company, but it is good, and in the field of the fallen it is what should be sown.


August 21, 2018

For me, at it’s most basic level, meditation is noticing. Noticing life. Noticing the emergence of a new thought, or the expression on a friends face when you are listening to her story. Noticing the tightening in your stomach when your phone vibrates, or the whispering sound an arrow of geeses' wings make while flying overhead in the misty damp morning sky. Meditation is being awake even just for a moment to notice it as it passes.

I'm Alive

March 18, 2018

Life is an instant, a branch snapping, a single drop of ocean catching the light. Now more than halfway through, I am only beginning to realize the profound richness of this gift: I'm alive and each breath a miracle. I was nine when I first noticed the midnight nightingale's mournful cry and woke to the realization I am alive. Now half a life later, she turns to me and smiles, such a simple gesture that happens every day, yet I awake again to the truth that I'm alive. Like a nursery rhyme known from childhood and suddenly understood, I see into this simple daily moment and am dazzled by the richness of this time, of this golden age. I’m alive, but for an instant.

Woman's Day

March 8, 2018

On woman’s day imagine a world without woman: a prison, a bloody WWI battlefield, or the silent bus ride home from the loosing game. When I think of a world without woman, I see burning tires in the streets and the Lord of Flies ruling his island. No mothers, no grandmothers here, only danger and volatility. It is a world without birth, with no beginnings only endings.

Sleep Paralysis

March 2, 2018

Often when I was a teenager and well into my 20s I would wake up paralyzed, unable to open my eyes or move at all, like being encased in cement. I heard indistinct echoed voices somewhat like a crowded cathedral. Terribly claustrophobic, true hell. I then discovered that I could wiggle my toe and wake myself up from that movement. A lifesaver. I hope I never loose that toe.

Phone in my room

February 25, 2018

In sixth grade I enjoyed the extreme luxury of a telephone in my bedroom on a private line. My best friend Paula and I would talk for hours late in the evening, sometimes just hearing each other breathing. In the 70s, calls traveled on a single circuit one wire touching, so intimate.

Loose Lips

February 24, 2018

Loose Lips Sink Ships was a WWII government sponsored message intended to curtail "unguarded talk" that could endanger the nation’s war time security. Overheard careless discussion could literally sink ships. I think the adage applies as much today as in WWII.

The recent investigation on Russian interference in the US election revealed the Soviet's use of polarizing dialogue in social media to sow distrust between citizens with the goal to weaken our democracy. In Twitter and Facebook discussion threads, agents push disagreements to an extreme discord, like kids yelling “fight, fight, fight” during a playground scuffle. The idea that such talk has been weaponized reveals the disadvantages of hostile banter to our relationships and ultimately to our way of life.

I think as citizens we have a moral obligation to exercise inclusion, especially with those whom we disagree. This does not mean conceding to their argument, but working to understand why. To understand past the disagreement and know the experiences that lead your Interlocutor's position strengthens your relationship. To say, "I may disagree with your opinion, but I cannot disagree with the experience that brought you to that view” (or words to that effect), can pivot the surface conflict into something much deeper and more satisfying. I think it will help, it couldn't hurt.


February 22, 2018

In a lecture by Architect Frank Harmon, he talked about his love for barns. Barns, mostly built by the farmers who use them from materials they have on hand, possess a unique and localized wisdom. They reflect the land and its work. Their line and shape speaks to what grows and happens around them. They are practical, and though sometimes grand, always contain a humble purposefulness. Perched atop the hillside, they make room for the best and most workable land. On small multi-generational farms you will find an old barn still caring and working for the dependents who built it.

I was touched by Harmon’s observation. Maybe because I work in a barn (small and humble) designed by my mother and built by my father. I am not a farmer, but write code and emails, yet I find this dusty building to be a place of purpose so helpful to my task. I will notice barns more.

Who's Listening

January 7, 2018

Who is listening when I’m silent.
Who is watching when I’m still.
Who is beside me when I’m alone.
Is this voice merely an echo of solitude,
or the beckoning song of all love?
Close darkness makes even the dimmest impression radiant.
Will this spark of wonder flourish into a blaze of awe,
changing me into warmth and light?
Or, will it gently float away to diminish in the night?
I’ll sit a wait and wondering who is listening.


November 2, 2017

To, Elseworth Sandsmark, Melvin Larson, Bernus Sandsmark, Mrs. Blyth, Walter Taylor, Ron Riley, Hellen Riley, Chuck Durand, Anthony Patalano, Sam Cuevas, Melva Riley, thank you for loving me and for being part of my history. I would not be me without you. I think of you so often and today I say your names out loud.

Some Thoughts on Pain

September 13, 2017

Pain is a strict keeper continually taunting the mind back to itself; reducing us to stretched skin rapped in tender meat on fragile bones. Pain is generous with the small emotions of dread and rage. It whispers, "you are helpless" and to the loved one its sneers, “you are worthless.” Pain's heavy lead blanket impedes agility and interrupts hope. Yet, pain can flower patience for others by eroding pride and thinning the skin, bringing us close to each other. And in those quiet moments when it leaves the room, we find gratitude in the simplest pleasures: breathing, sitting, and holding hands.

Tinnitus Begins as a . . .

September 2, 2017

Tinnitus begins as a death sentence of suffocation through a constricting world tightening and collapsing in an invisible claustrophobic nightmare of endless ringing. It corrodes attention orphaning one into a solitary confinement of distraction. Yet after years of this unwelcome companion, sitting on my shoulder hissing in my ear, I am finding that Tinnitus can also be an invitation to the moment . Like a buddhist’s bell marking the beginning of meditation, the ring can be a door to the Now, a mnemonic, reminding me to be attentive and listen to life’s counter melody of my single droning note. After many years, I am oddly grateful to this noisy passenger, who I”ve learned to appreciate. Some days remain a battle, but most are very agreeable. To those just beginning: It gets better and better, so loose not hope.

Thoughts on Grace

August 26, 2017

Grace begins with being kind to yourself and accompanies a fluidity in thinking and perspective that resists rigidity of thought or point of view. That’s not to say grace is flighty or easily misplaced. No. Grace is steadfast to love and abides in warm conversation. It dwells in the precise movement found in life long dance partners or old friends well practiced at forgiveness. Grace anticipates another's need by gently nudging them away from a fall, and is found in that light squeeze of one's hand to share a momentary pain. Grace is comfortable being absolutely still in the silence of pure attention nor is it rattled by the city’s cacophony. Grace listens and is never full, but only graceful in its dexterity of compassion. Grace takes practice, especially now in post-forgiveness America.


August 25, 2017

The most accurate memories are those lest remembered. Upon every recalling, our past is colored by the now. Like scribes interpreting the ancient texts, we re-write our history thought by thought. In the mechanics of our thinking, a memory is read into our attention, experienced, and not just returned, but re-authored by the state of our mind’s machinery. It has been shown that tinkers can introduce an anodyne that interferes with this re-scribing effort, paling the recollection upon every remembering, converting a haunted past into a more pastoral beginning. Maybe a new future for that wide eyed mumbling old soldier wondering the streets. I must admit, at first consideration this notion is unsettling: are we more apothecary than spirit, are we more clockwork than freethinking? No. There is liberation in this notion. I think the fruit of this knowledge is how it can lift us from living the words on the page into the author of the book. If the inheritance of this moment is the story of my past, how much richer can things be if I can lathe my history and shape its telling. Not to change the happenings of what occurred, but enliven their meaning. Perhaps I’ve been expelled from the garden, only to find the world.


August 13, 2017

Freedom is messy, infuriating, and dangerous. Freedom requires constraint and self-control. It’s waiting for your turn while someone cuts in front of you. Freedom is outrage. Freedom is unfair and often accompanied by failure. Freedom is the most difficult conversation a nation will endure. While, freedom’s twin opposite is easy and will take care of you keeping you safe in your place. Freedom is impossible. Freedom is the black police officer protecting a white suprimnisous. Freedom lets us be our best while others are free to be their worst.

Stop Talking, Start Making.

January 26, 2017

So much complaining and so little listening . . . there is a lot to complain about on all sides, but who wants to listen to someone complaining. I'm certainly tired of listening to myself. Am I becoming "that guy" who would quietly rage through his 5 beers every night at the bar? No, I will not. For myself I will complain through creation. I'm going to stop talking and start making. What should I make? What would you make?

Why I Marched

January 22, 2017

Such a protest has several competing purposes and to be honest I was torn if I should participate. In the end, I showed up to support those feeling vulnerable. I showed up to represent the right of all humans to be treated with respect and dignity. The current climate has sent a pronounced chill on anyone other. Many people I know are feeling blamed that America is not as rich and shiny others think it should be. Speaking only for myself, I think humanity’s greatest invention is human rights and America’s greatest contribution is the creation of a way of life that allows so many different kinds of people to live side by side both challenging and benefiting each other. American was the first modern country to try. I don’t think that I am over reacting to say that these rights may be being traded for the promise of prosperity and security. I showed up to say I disagree with this transaction. 

Walking in the rain for an hour wasn’t hard or challenging. It was fun and inspiring. Sure there were some frustrating folks who were very angry that their team didn’t win the election. But mostly I saw regular people expressing love and support to each other. I saw citizens being generous and kind which made me proud of my city and country.

Hope and Imagination

January 8, 2017
Ada Lovelace wrote, "Imagination is the Discovering Faculty, pre-eminently… that which penetrates into the unseen worlds around us."  So I say, "Imagination is the flame that lights the world that has yet to happen." This flame is fanned by hope.   Hope is the willingness to imagine when all seems rot. Hope is not wishful thinking and is not passive or lazy.  Hope is active and makes noise.  Hope is willful and anticipates surprise.  Hope is braver than disappointment and stronger than sorrow.  Hope and imagination birth worlds. 

Thank You Barclay

October 23, 2016

(Lieutenant Reginald) BARCLAY passed away peacefully this weekend. He was a dog and a great friend. Ten years ago my mom called one Saturday morning saying, "it's time you and Allison got a dg, meet me at the shelter later this afternoon.” After being introduced to several breeds we came across a 70 pound black fuzzball of an Australian shepherd . He promptly sat on our laps and the keeper said “that is your dog.” Since then he has seldom been more than 10 feet from either Allison or myself. It is astonishing how much a dog can teach you about friendship, being in the moment, and recognizing what is important. Barclay introduced us to so many dear friends on our walks and expressed such a warm and welcoming spirit to who ever visited us. He was a faithful yoga companion and a true party animal. When we would laugh, he would bark and when we would hug he would gather round. Of course I am so sad not to have my dog shadow follow me everywhere, to see his steadfast and loving eyes, someone who knew me so well anticipating my every feeling even before me. But I have to say how grateful Allison and I both are to have shared so much time with such a pure and loving soul. Perhaps I’m anthropomorphizing, but what is humanity good for if we cannot find love and compassion from those around us, and for that Barclay was surely the master. Thank you so much Barclay.

Compete to Include

October 21, 2016

Is inclusion possible in a competitive world?  For me the most rewarding competition is that which is won not at the expense of another, but one that increases value or understanding to those who participate. It is cliché to say I am in competition with myself, yet I am.  I am trying it be stronger, faster, better each day.  To be more patient, less angry, and give others a sense of inclusion.  How is this competition?  Maybe it is the focus.  I think of runners racing. Sure there is only one winner, but the competition made them all faster.  Think of the generous winner who celebrates in everyone’s growth. Now think of the last place runner taking pride in the best time they ever ran.

Farewell Dick's Last Resort

September 25, 2016

A final split in front of the bar at Dick's Last Resort which closed today. During my 20 years behind that bar (starting in the early 1990s): I met Allison (my wife), paid for grad school, sang hundreds of times with the house rock band Private Domain, and probably had the best time while working . . . ever.

But more than that I accrued my 10,000 hours of playing with strangers.  Finding that unexpected commonality that allowed shared laughter and memorable moments.  That is what being a Dick was all about.  It was the irreverent and novel course of interaction that allowed folks to get off their practiced script of expected phatic conversation and venture into the unexpected (and sometimes scary but) always fun domain of real play.  If you did your job right, your customers would fondly remember that night for a lifetime.

Thank you Dick's for everything. I'm proud to say I will always be a Dick.


1952 Vincent Black lightning

July 17, 2016

Recently Amanda Palmer (of Dresden Dolls fame) produced an album with her father Jack Palmer.  Far from the “millennial burlesque” of her previous duo, this new production can best be described as mid century folk. Simple and raw but straight to the heart.  The Vocals are not polished but real and honest.  I love their cover of Richard Thompson's “1952 Vincent Black lightning.”  Listen to it with the animated video from some 200 plus paintings and I dare you not to be moved. While my (long gone) 1979 Honda CB 750 was no Vincent Black, it did have soul.  Few things match the exhilaration of riding fast enough till the pavement blurs with your love hanging on behind you.  Middle age fear and sensibility prevents me from owning another ride, but this song really helps.  I agree with its lyrical sentiment:  “In my opinion there is nothing in this world that  beats a 52 Vincent and a redheaded girl.”


Jack & Amanda Palmer - "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" (art by David Mack) from Amanda Palmer on Vimeo.


June 22, 2016

John 11: 1 - 44 gave the account of how JESUS RAISED LAZARUS up from the dead.  I always like to imagine that the death reversing energy given to Lazarus still remains causing him never to die.  He is still with us today, maybe homeless walking the streets in a gentle decent, but never quite dying.  In one of my favorite songs (and video) , Nick Cave, sings about how Lazarus never really got over being raised from the tomb, that he is "back on the streets of New York City in a soup queue, a dope fiend, a slave, then prison, then the madhouse . . . “  I guess it is hard work not dying. Poor Larry.


Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! from Iain & Jane on Vimeo.

Biological Morality

June 17, 2016

Is morality just a piece of meat? I recently read that the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), is that portion of the brain that helps us make sense of other peoples’ thinking. It is integral in what is called the “theory of mind,” which is the process of how we understand and predict what another person is doing based what we think they think. Judgements of blame and moral responsibility seemed to be processed in this area. An experiment showed that when you “turn off” this area for a while, (though trans-cranial magnetic stimulation), people will judge an action based on its outcome rather than on intention (morality) of the person performing the action. I wonder, if in the future we could “turn up” the TPJ function and increases a person’s moral sensitivity, would we require it for our religious and political leaders, or perhaps those who commit atrocities so they can better understand and lament the consequences of their actions?

It's Not That Bad

June 16, 2016

There is a story going around that things are terrible.  Violence is exploding and people are writhing in discontent.  I don't accept that narrative. I would like to suggest that the world you experience every day is colored by the story you keep in your head.  I don’t want to be defined by that dark and stormy end told by industry and politicians working to gather power. Rather I work to write my own narrative by finding what is possible and confirming it through connection with others.  I’m still on my first draft . . . but I’ll keep pushing.

I am only my attention.

June 16, 2016

When it comes down to it, I am only my attention. It is the last and most prime scarcity. I can’t make any more, I only have what I got. I remember reading back in grad school Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s description of “Flow” that blissful state of super productivity achieved through a singular focus by complete absorption into an activity. It has something to do with saturating the brain with a relaxed focused attention. You see it in people who are amazing at their work, in the faces of children making art, and between people immersed in great conversation. I think flow is our natural state. Yet I for one, keep forgetting about it. I’m constantly distracted away from Flow. Without deliberate attention, there is no Flow. Our collective attention is a valuable commodity worth billions, so where the attention goes the money and power follow. Therefore, industries and political entities are built to take this valuable attention. I, for one, want to keep as much of my attention for myself, my loved ones, my work, my community, and ultimately I want to keep my attention for my Flow.

Outrage Economy

June 13, 2016

This time may best be characterized as the real start of the outrage economy. Outrage that two men were kissing, outrage that someone murdered 50 people, outrage that he was Muslim, outrage that some feel the murder was justified and is God’s judgement against sinful living, outrage that some with politicize a massacre to take guns away, and outrage that someone on the FBI watch list who can not buy a plane ticket, can legally purchase an assault weapon. What is the aggregate effect of so much outrage? When America was born, freedom was easier when you only had to move west to escape what was objectionable. But, in a crowded networked society, we are confronted with what is objectionable on every screen. Is America still possible? I say yes, but only if we are brave. Rage is not courageous. But listening past what is objectionable until you find connection is very brave. It can be bitter medicine and perhaps the only antidote to the trickle down hatred of the outrage economy. Those much wiser than me suggest that we don’t have to agree to understand and understanding is worth the effort. Once you understand someones perspective, you can still disagree, but the outrage has been diminished, and the resulting connection affords the opportunity to discover new solutions. I’m not very good at this, but I’m going to try and do my part.

The Man with Orange Hair

March 10, 2016

One night a man with orange hair came to the open field on the edge of our town. He set up a large tent and very tall torches that he set alight. We were curious, what would this entertainer tell us, so we all gathered in his large tent. He stood on his platform behind a pulpit and told us that we aren’t good anymore. We’re lost and don’t know how to win. Most of us laughed, shook head turned and left the tent. But many stayed and and clambered closer to the pulpit. He yelled, “how can you stand to be so poor?” How can you bear to be so little? You are losers?” He slowly shook his head and said,” You haven’t even won a war not like your great-grandfathers who saved the world that day long ago. Aren’t you ashamed?” I stood in the back behind a pole that held up the tent where they couldn't see me. The man with the orange hair asked the group before him, “where did the others go? Hmm, I bet they all went home and left you. You know? They think you are losers too. I would be so angry if I were you.”

He smiled and slowly shook his head with pity. They got angry. I hid myself crowding closer to the tent pole. “Not angry enough” the man with the orange hair chided. “Here,” he said, “let me help” and he took a tall torch and touch some of them with the flame. The fire spread across their hair, clothes and bodies. It spread to all of them “Now, go out and share the word,” he told the burning group. And indeed they ran out of the tent into the town. Frightened, I also ran from the tent. “I see you” said the man with orange hair to me as I left.

Ahead of me, the burning men and woman ran and screamed in complete rage. They ran into the streets and alleys of our small town, jumping through windows and breaking down doors. Some just fell against homes and trees as the flames spreading from their bodies catching everything they touched on fire. No one stopped them. Everyone else was asleep.

I climbed the hill behind my house and watched our town burn. Most of the fiery group were no longer moving. Some smoldering in the street where they fell while others were consumed by the burning buildings and trees. I thought of those who didn’t stay to hear the man with the orange hair. I thought of them going home that night, falling asleep and never waking as their rooms burned around them, flames clawing at their face and hair. They never woke as the fire curled their fingers into dead eagle talons. I sat and watched unable to move from my hillside perch as the town began to burn itself out.

Then, the man with the orange hair folded up his tent, took down his burning torches, and dusted off his hands before moving on.


November 8, 2015

Ransomeware is scary and can paralyze a business. Imagine all of your work encrypted and having to pay someone to get it back. While there is no magic bullet to guarantee safety, there are several approaches, if done in combination n will significantly reduce the office’s vulnerability to having the business held hostage.  These can be broken up into 4 areas: individual behavior, computer hardening, strong email virus scans, and multiple backups.

Individual Behavior
The first level of defense begins with the individual. Much of what I am going to say is common sense. Assume a defensive posture when browsing websites and opening email.   Be wary.  The two most common ways that ransomeware infects a computer is through email or browsing, so assume it is dirty and requires practical data hygiene.  For example, if you receive a word document or some other attachment that you were not expecting, don’t open it until you verify through a different channel that it is legitimate.   Of course never ever open an exe file on the PC.  Don’t visit fringe sites, porn or take online surveys.  As a default never click yes or okay from a web browser popup.  Never download a diagnostic from a “warning” window that suddenly appears from a website.  Force close the browser rather than hit “ok.”  While pretty obvious, many companies include these practices as policy.

Computer Hardening Toughen your computers against attack.  First, all computers in the office should be using some version of User Access Control which un-authorises the current user from making any changes to the OS.  Only a user with administrative (the top level) access can install software.  A website might trick you to install software, however if you are logged in without administrative access, that software can not be installed and you are saved.  For example, my regular login on my main production machine (mac) does not have admin privileges.  So I need to log in as an admin user to install anything.
In addition to controlling access, antivirus software can help. However, to be effective against newer versions of ransomware, it should employ a machine learning (AI) approach that analyzes the way the computer’s memory, encryption and permissions are being used to identify the beginning of a ransom encryption take over.  CylancePROTECT is one version recommended to me by several IT professionals.  Lastly,  putting your network behind a firewall will prevent bots from worming into your network and infecting your machines.

Strong Email Virus Scans I used to host my own email.  Later I had a smaller company dedicated to email, manage my accounts.  However, it kept feeling like wack a mole, trying to stay ahead of the spam and feeling vulnerable to viruses.  So, for the last few years, I have been using Google Apps for my email address. They do it all for $50 per account per year.  I don’t think there is anyone better.  However you are not in physical possession of your email.  You can not unplug the server and bury it in the desert.  By the way, one IT pro told me he has one of his clients email accounts hosted in Switzerland making it virtually impossible to subpoena for litigation.

Multiple Backups One client of mine uses a proprietary backup that creates a distinct snapshot of the data shared by 200 users working in the office every hour. So, if encryption just occurred, they would be able to back up an hour to restore a clean, pre-infected version of that machine.  There are cloud based recover services that perform this service (such as carbonate), however if you have large graphic and video files, the service would need to be optimized to not slow down the network and computer performance.  Additionally, as a last (and perhaps overkill) step, I would also routinely (Wednesday and Friday) manually backup the drives content on every important computer to the external drive and then UNPLUG that drive from that computer.   Then if all else fails, you’ve only lost two days of work on each computer.

Golden Rules

October 31, 2011

I am lucky to have known golden people. These are those remarkable folks who make your world better just by knowing you. I don’t know if it is cariama or a gifted spirit but every interaction with such people just seems to make life bigger. I developed a set of rules based on the habits of such people always seem to practice in their interactions with others. I call these the Golden Rules. While I am not much of a rule follower, I keep trying to keep these:

Rule 1
Be generous. In every interaction, create something new by giving something that exceeds what you receive.

Rule 2
Be thankful. Remind yourself to be grateful for what and who you have.

Rule 3
Be conscious. Ask unexpected questions that derails automatic talk and thinking.

Rule 4
Be patient. In conflict, be calm and assertive but never angry. Try and understand what is the real pain behind the argument.

Rule 5
Be funny. Try and find the unexpected connection or similarity between two seemingly unrelated ideas.

Rule 6
Listen. Take the extra beat to hear what the other person is trying to say.


Anthony Patalano 1963 - 2010

February 28, 2010

Anthony_PatalanoI met Anthony in April of 1991 at a new employee orientation upstairs of Dick's Last Resort, San Diego. He was telling the joke about the midget and monkey in the bar and had the nearly 200 new hires in complete hysterics. He was hilarious. I was terrified. This big man was so powerful. However the moment I knew him - I loved him. In the thousands of hours we worked together side by side behind the bar, I witnessed his special genius of consistently discovering the uniquely comical thing to say in each moment. Hands down, he was absolutely the funniest person I have ever known.


Anthony was complex and like all of us had his frustrations, yet unlike all of us, he was transformative and grew. Years after he left the bar, I was so proud to tell folks of his more recent success working with communicatively disadvantaged children. It should be no surprise that this person who could find the perfectly hilarious thing to say to break the ice at any gathering would have the genius and diligence of heart to break through the thick wall of autism and find a connection. But that was his way, a man with such explosive charisma he could out shout a platoon of drunk marines, also possessed inimitable patience and tenderness to reach these children.


The philosopher and psychologist Victor Frankel wrote that the measure of any man's life is in the meaning he creates moment by moment through the interactions with the people around him. More than anyone else I knew, Anthony drew you into the moment and brought you to the present. He was a great man. I am a much better person for knowing him. I will miss him.