‘Like the purpose of hunger’

Both from the Sunday Longreads email yesterday. First, “What Happened When I Tried to Cut the Negative People Out of My Life” and, wonderfully, spoiler-alert, it turns out people aren’t the thing you need to cut out of your life. Second, “How Loneliness Begets Loneliness” and how to break the cycle.

Says a University of Chicago psychologist who’s written a book on loneliness: “The purpose of loneliness is like the purpose of hunger. Hunger takes care of your physical body. Loneliness takes care of your social body, which you also need to survive and prosper. We’re a social species.”

At the end of a sad week, nice to see this

Our Gonzaga class of 1998 lost a classmate this week, in very sad fashion. I didn’t know him that well and hadn’t seen him since graduation, now nearly 20 years ago. But on top of a family connection, we sat together in a few classes and he was always friendly to me. Been thinking of him and his family a lot this week.

The day after we learned that news, a storm took the roof off Gonzaga’s church, St. Al’s. Minor compared to a death, but not good news. Strange feeling to look out the window and see the damage down the block.

So, it was meaningful consolation this week for the Post to put the school’s service programs in warm light and at long-read length. There’s talk of the McKenna Center, where classes from my time volunteered, but also cool new programs: “The historical Jesuit boys’ school was the first high school in the country to join the college-based Campus Kitchens Project, in which students recover unused food and prepare meals in the school kitchen space to feed needy neighbors.”

No matter how your week was, this story helps.

‘A corporeal software update’

Long week. Woke up this morning (Saturday) thinking it was still a weekday and that the problems from the second half of yesterday needed solving today. A bit of a treadmill feeling this week… with someone standing in front of the treadmill and throwing basketballs and volleyballs at your feet. Next week will be better.

Related, can I get one of these rooms? For work or home, either.


The room was unchanged, but my senses were operating independently of my mind. I watched inky patterns scroll across the wall: a hallucination, maybe, or some neural process I usually wouldn’t notice, a corporeal software update.

In such a deadened room, a body bursts with life, spilling it out through every sense. I felt enraptured and paralyzed, as if I were a disembodied mind seared in the void, listening to a recording of silence played at top volume.


A catbird seat to March Madness

So close, but so much remaining danger. If Gonzaga wins tomorrow night, I win my first NCAA Tournament brackets ever, after nearly 20 years of playing. If Gonzaga loses, there will be no record (but this blog) of this near-historic run. No matter how the game turns out, the last few weeks of the tournament have been great. Northwestern’s appearance and win, lots of last-second excitement, and my not-well-researched bracket somehow rising in the standings to have a shot. In certain months, a streak of pointless fun can be exactly what you need.

Capitol Hill friends, 1st out of 10, but trouble.

NU friends, 1st out of 20, but trouble.

Work bracket, tied for 1st out of 25, but trouble.

Discovered: A late-’90s ode to the Northwestern computer lab

A find during Googling recently — Lindsay sent a photo of Evanston restaurant Hecky’s, a place we never went while we actually attended Northwestern — is Martha Larson’s “Computer Lab Swing” (lyrics and mp3), which turns out to be an amazing capture of an odd time and place: NU’s late-’90s digital world.

The servers named after neighborhood restaurants (Hecky’s is the only survivor), the Telnet text-only email client, the “Ph” service that operated like a digital phone directory but then became a semi-social network before social networks existed…. all of these things were real and our children will never believe us.

It’s a high-class joint where the big names rendezvous
You’ve got Hecky, Casbah, Merle and Sweet Lulu
The lights are white and the screens glow a funky green,
And, baby, pine is the secret word, if you know what I mean
Keep on swingin’ there’s no stoppin’, the Cyberworld is always hoppin’
Computer Lab…Computer Lab

I sing bee-billi-oten-boten-bobo-skideeten-be-bop
As I take that mouse for a spin across my desktop
The guy sittin’ next to me is a real Johnny Style,
So I’ll Ph that cat, and get his profile
All those masterminds a-thinkin’ but there ain’t no food or drinkin’
Computer Lab…Computer Lab

Our current interns will never believe us.

The rest of Larson’s songs from that time aren’t online, but I bet they’d be interesting to Northwestern people as well.  A 1999 graduate of the NU mechanical-engineering program, say her liner notes, “Martha performed the title track to her album, Lonesome Techie Woman, at the 1999 McCormick School of Engineering commencement ceremony.”

Three goals in five minutes

Saw the Caps the other night. Saw a little history

Alex Ovechkin scored his 30th goal of the season at 8:31 of the first period on the power play to make it 1-0. Ovechkin joined Mike Gartner and Wayne Gretzky as the third player in NHL history to score at least 30 goals in each of his first 12 seasons.

…and then saw some excitement. The Post:

First, it was Daniel Winnik who celebrated by running into the referee along the glass, stumbling to the ice before a Washington Capitals teammate happily lifted him up. Justin Williams triggered the goal horn next, and his celebration was more subdued, with other red jerseys circling him for a group hug. Then it was Winnik again, falling in front of an empty net as he swung his stick to push the puck into it.

With the score tied 1-1 and five minutes left to play, the Caps caught fire and scored three times before the final horn. We were in the last row of the arena, but the experience was a thrill. In a year that seems like actually The Year for a team that makes nearly every year seem like The Year before it is suddenly not The Year, we felt lucky for a clear witnessing of the ice power and magic afoot.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to climb down the ladder

While watching TV the other night, we noticed flashing lights outside. Looking at the window, we found a fire truck raising its ladder… to our apartment. There were no alarms going off in the building or — I looked around the living room and kitchen for a second to see if we’d somehow lost our minds and missed a fire in progress — our apartment. The ladder stopped at the roof of the building, which is atop our apartment ceiling. We decided to put on our shoes and go outside.

(“We should put on our shoes” status has only occurred once previously in our home, during last year’s massive hailstorm. There are seven windows in our living room and one large skylight.)

Fortunately, as we exited the fireproof stairs to the first floor, we found neighbors with a not-scary explanation. One neighbor was cleaning her stove, which started a burning smell. An upstairs neighbor called 911. Good people, both, for doing what they did. The firefighters determined no other problems with stove, and their man on the ladder found no systems aflame on the roof. He came back down the ladder, past our living room, and we all went home.

I love weird old notes

Discovered this one from 10 years ago, when, apparently, we were thinking about how to bring certain USA Today health and wellness content to life.

How to live a long life

–your advice on how to live a long life
–world’s oldest people
–obituaries of people over 100

making choices
controlling the side effects of affluence
feeling in control of your destiny
balanced lifestyle — good news compsenating for the bad?
stress management
respond to challenges, effectively restore+sustain balance

–split wellness into categories
–let daylife create categories

destroy the body vs. keep it alive
–two columns of recommendations — why should he die, why should he live

a law, an offender, a target and a place = a crime

human map

I still like the idea of aggregating centenarian obituaries. I have no idea what “human map” means or why criminality came into play. I think “destroy the body vs. keep it alive” was some kind of game idea. Which is pretty weird.