Migraines (5 of 90)

I’m late on my post.

Not even a week into the challenge and I’m already late. A few years ago, this would have tied me in knots. I’d have struggled through the evening to write this before the midnight hour.

Not now. I’ve grown comfortable enough with the fluidity of life to understand that sometimes deadlines pass without accomplishment. That doesn’t mean stop moving forward. Just the opposite. It means I continue forward even when the arbitrary spacetime marker has been passed.

I’m okay with my new-found freedom. It’s taken some getting used to, but frankly much of my life has taken getting used to. If I can get used to moving through the world sober, surely I can get used to moving through the spacetime stream with some flexibility.


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A Life in Time (4 of 90)

The concept of spacetime combines space and time to a single abstract "space", for which a unified coordinate system is chosen. Typically three spatial dimensions (length, width, height), and one temporal dimension (time) are required.

— Wikipedia entry on Spacetime

I’m not feeling particularly deep tonight, which is okay. I suspect that I am full of less depth than I think anyhow. It’s a welcome reprieve to simply accept such truths about oneself and move along.

There is, after all, nothing to see here.

I get myself in trouble, though, when I begin to acknowledge the potential for a future. Any kind of future. But, in particular, the kind of future that imagine myself managing to wrangle out at some point. These are the times when everything falls to pieces.

The problem isn’t that things fall apart. It’s that I now expect them to fall. To break. To crumble away into nothingness. Every beginning comes with its own unplanned but inevitable end.

And I hate endings. Particularly crumbly ones.


When I get in modes like this, I find myself fixating on the road ahead.

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The Un-American Story (3 of 90)

I’m currently working on a book, a memoir really, about my family.

It’s one of several projects I have going at the moment, and I’m not entirely sure how I am going to pull all these off. But I’m never quite sure how I’m going to pull anything off. I just keep putting on foot in front of the next, don’t burden myself with pesky deadlines and figure that I’ll get finished when I get finished.

The next 3 months, though, I’ve decided to dedicate myself to writing every day. To push forward not only on the blog, but also on the projects.

I can’t really blog much about the specifics of the story because if I do that, I won’t actually write the book. Once the story is told, I have a hard time re-telling the same story. If you’re interested in the overview, though, you can check out the audio here.

This is the last “introduction” I’ll do for the project. After all, origin stories, like memoirs, are painfully dull. But we’ll try to do something about that.


I love history. Particularly American history. I have scores of books dedicated to the Civil Rights movement, science and technology, the American Revolution. I devour the stories of the people who changed the way we live, who influenced the direction of the country.

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On Clay County and the Census Worker (2 of 90)

Thing 2: Some of us are trying to raise kids here, and we’ve got plenty of cultural self-loathing to fight already, thanks.

comment from Techno-Files, or Why I Learned to Hate the Coast

There’s a certain Appalachian small townie-ness that has come to the Web, a place built on instant communication, community and conversation. It’s subversive.

I know this because I’ve had a front row seat to the massive chaos this interconnected, hyperlinked world inflicted on business. I know this because there are scores of books about the phenomenon of conversation, of reputation, or goodwill on the Web. I know this because I’ve watched gigantic industries – music, news, television, movies – crumble under the weight of the conversations that happen online.

I’ve reported from the front lines of this transformation: at Wired, at Wired.com, at Technology Review. Yet it’s always struck me as rather pedestrian, this change, because it didn’t feel much different than what I’d been experiencing for year.

Where I’m from, news always traveled fast. Bad news traveled faster. Scandalous news was like a wildfire. There was no stopping it. You might complain about it. But people know your business. And no matter what you say about that little bit, you know their business too.

These are not traits specific to Appalachia, or to my home town in Loveland, Ohio (Clermont County for those of you who want to argue my Appalachia heritage). It’s disingenuous for anyone to claim their region is particularly different than any other region, although it’s certainly something we do. I suspect as you read, you’ll be inclined to tell me stories about just how much better (or maybe worse) your home town is from mine. And I suspect you’ll be right.

But if we’re kindly about it, you’ll let me tell my story anyway. Humor a storyteller.


This story starts exactly the way I hope no story starts. With an end.

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The Fabulous Baker Boy (1 of 90)

The southern part of the River has changed course many times over an area some 300 kilometers wide.

The key to these changes is the River’s natural tendency to follow the "path of least resistance," which is almost always the shortest route to the sea.

The Mississippi follows a single channel until gradually its channel fills with sediment. At that point, the River easily overtops its banks during periods of high discharge. When that happens, it is free to find a more direct route to the Gulf, until of course, the lengthy cycle begins again.

This cyclical shifting of the Mississippi has resulted in an ongoing battle to control the forces of nature.

— U.S. Department of the Interior: U.S. Geological Survey, Running Water II: Landscape Evolution


There are very few moments in life that will shake your existence to the core. We mostly try to avoid them. Feverishly. Fevorishly.

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90 in 90


I preach to my kids: write every day.

I should stop there and clarify that sentence. Because I don’t exactly have kids. I am a professor. I have students. But they are mine. At least for 17 weeks each semester. My job is to help them find the tools they need to go live out their dreams, at least as best that I can.

Teaching isn’t a job. It’s a calling. It’s one that, like so many jobs, doesn’t have hours or boundaries. My kids are my kids. They will always be my kids. Thirty years from now, if I’m still kicking around on the planet, I’ll worry about them. I’ll wonder if I helped them find that one critical piece that made it all come together.

But this isn’t that kind of writing. I’ve discussed teaching before. This is about writing. And what I haven’t been doing.


Many years ago, I was talking with a friend of mine at a restaurant we worked. We were discussing “who” we were. The kinds of small talk strangers make as they decide whether they will be something more than casual acquaintances. Feeling each other out.

Not in any particularly interesting way. Just regular.

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Standing in the Shower…Thinking

Sometimes I float.

I couldn’t tell you exactly what brings upon these moods in my life anymore than I could tell you when I’m anchored down. Surely there are ideas, tiny thoughts that bounce around in my brain. Dissecting. Always dissecting. The eternal search for that One Thing that will make it all clear.

That will bring the Dark Magic into focus.

Like the matter of the universe, though, the ideas and tiny thoughts slip away. But always after they toy with me, hovering for those precious few milliseconds when they seem so clear. As if I could reach out and grab them, hold them, make sense of them. When I try to touch them, they vanish. Dissipating. Always dissipating.

I write this as I stare out my window at the snow-covered ground, the lights off in my townhome, the candles flickering. It is calm outside in a way that my social network is not. It is quiet in real life, noisy in cyberspace. They both sound the same. To normal ears.

But they all interrupt and inspire the Magic, a tornado swirl within my head releasing its energy whenever it pleases.

The Dark Magic.


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Techno-Files, Or Why I Learned To Hate the Coast

**Greetings Gawkers who found me through this piece or this piece. Remember to tip your waiters and waitresses. And the 1030 show is always different than that the 8.**

I have buried the lede in this piece so I hope you’ll hang with me while I indulge in a little storytelling about why I’m a little pissed off tonight. It’s actually a story that starts a long time ago, in the part of the country that many people think is far, far away.

But I promise we’ll get there before too long. The point will be made and we can all move on from there.

To begin, though, we must return to the beginning. The very. I spent the better part of my youth in search of my voice.

I grew up in a little Appalachian town (or more accurately, I grew up in the Appalachian county – there were three and I lived in the “wrong” one – in our town) that pushed up against the farm lands of the midwest. The further I get from my childhood and the more I travel the globe, the more I realize exactly how amazing my life was. Open pastures of green. Lots of kids in the neighborhood. Room to run, play and explore.

For everything it offered, I never quite found my voice. So I packed up my car a few years after graduation and set across the country. The ins and outs of the journey aren’t important. What is, though, is that I eventually settled in Berkeley, the one place I’d dreamed for many years. Not the city, mind you. I never had much care for Oakland, Berkeley or San Francisco (although if I did have care, it would be in that order).

I dreamed of the graduate school of journalism at Berkeley.

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I’m stuck ass deep in a funk, the pitiful sadness where I start looking for all the reasons everyone should feel sorry for me.

Well, F That. It’s time for war on my shit-ass mood. In the end, there can be only one. Here’s what I’m taking into battle.

“I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again”



The last time I held a baseball bat, with any seriousness, was May 1990. I remember because of what I didn’t do. I remember because years of my life came to focus in that one at bat, that one moment where I expected to succeed in ways that I had succeed before.

I remember the last swing I took. The slow spin on the ball as it came out of the pitchers hand. The slight movement of the outfielders as they came set. The knee-bend of my teammate sliding off second base. The quick lock of my back knee, just before my hips swiveled, and the milli-second of recognition…panic…that I was going to miss the ball because of it.

My bat dragged through the strike zone, slowed by that near imperceptible flaw in my swing. My shoulder dropped, pushing the bat into a downward elliptical. Before I could stop, the ball floated harmless into left field. Settling into the outfielder’s glove.

For everyone else at the park that day, it was simply a routine out. For me, as I left the tying runner on in the sixth inning of our playoff game, I knew that it was over. My life in baseball was over.


I spent the first year of college in a daze. Alone and unknown. Struggling to figure out who I was going to be. Who I wanted to be. Who I had the potential to become.

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“Kick Out the Jams”


The first movie I obsessed over, in the kind of way that can only be felt by the young, was Pump Up the Volume.

It was the summer after my freshman year at Miami University. I was sober for the first time. I was home in my parents condominium, a place they bought not to secretly because they wanted my sister and I to know that there was really no room at the Inn.

It was miserable.

Not because of my parents. I love them dearly. And they allowed me to wallow and struggle through great bouts of depression and horror without saying much. Today I know how hard that must have been on them. Back then I simply felt alone.

That’s when I found Happy Harry Hard On and Nora, the main characters from the film.


I spent my mornings sleeping, my afternoons obsessively watching the movie and my nights dancing until the sun came up at The Warehouse, a club in Over-the-Rhine, before returning home to wash, rinse and repeat. Day after day. Week after week. Throughout the summer.

The film, which doesn’t stand the test of time, was the first time I realized that I had a voice. The soundtrack spoke to me. The characters were living my life. And Nora – played by Samantha Mathis – became the woman that all others were measured against.

I started carrying around a notebook during that summer. Always a notebook and a pen. Scribbling. Writing. I would sit in the darkened corners of The Warehouse writing ideas, thoughts, nuggets.

And I knew what I wanted to be.



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Years ago, I split my time between SXSW Music and Interactive. As such, I received advanced copies of CDs. Most I discarded after a few listens. I still own this one specifically for this song, which I play when I feel life needs a little reminder:

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