Category Archives: Nuts and bolts

charged words






These I put on a list a couple of days ago. But I’ve been mulling this idea for a long time. I don’t think I have any grand conclusions, though. Try these out:

my wife

my car

my father

my house

my dog

my job

my son

that chair is mine

those papers are mine

be mine

My brother has two children

My mother has a piano

My aunt has cancer

My neighbor has a television

I have a girlfriend

I have a guitar

I have a sister

I have a book

I love Mozart

I love Seinfeld

I love potato chips

I love you

post SoundBox post

I had a lot of ideas for posts last week as I was working SoundBox. My schedule wasn’t even that onerous. I had every night off except Friday and Saturday and Saturday I had the day free. Wednesday night I had a union meeting so I got home late.

But no posts got written. Sorry about that. Now I have a week (mostly) off so I’m hoping to catch up here. At the moment the well is dry, however. I’ll be back shortly . . .


Writing is mysterious and beautiful. Good writing is hard. From somewhere I remember a quote from a 18th Century writer of a letter. At the end of a 20+ page letter to a friend he apologized for going on so long. He said he didn’t have time to write a brief letter.

Or something like that. The point is that it takes a lot of time to arrange the chaotic ideas running through one’s head into organized sentences that someone else has a chance of understanding. In this blog, I try to think before writing, thus most of my entries are relatively brief. 20 page letters will not be read by 21st Century readers. Now in the forums sometimes I see ‘tl;dr’. Too long, didn’t read.

I found one previous reference in this blog to the American writer James Gleick. His book Chaos has been a long time favorite of mine. At Mom and Dad’s the other day, I spotted another Gleick book: Genius, The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, and filched it. I had read it before, some years ago, but I thought it was worth another reading.

This morning I opened it and almost immediately I was struck by the quality of the writing. In the Prologue, Gleick tells of a meeting in 1948 of the world’s best physicists:

In the annals of science it was the last time but one that these men would meet in such circumstances, without ceremony or publicity. They were indulging a fantasy, that their work could remain a small, personal, academic exercise, invisible to most of the public, as it had been a decade before, when a modest building in Copenhagen served as the hub of their science. They were not yet conscious of how effectively they had persuaded the public and the military to make physics a mission of high technology and expense.  . . . Next year most of these men would meet once more . . . but by then the modern era of physics had begun in earnest, science conducted on a scale the world had not seen, and never again would its chiefs come together privately, just to work.

pictures of Zach

I’m going to say that I don’t have any pictures of Zach in my apartment newer than about age 10. I have my little ‘shrine’ with Hobbes and some other little things of his but photos of him as an adult still make me wince.

I’m mentioning this because of the page I created on FaceBook. The purpose was to allow people who want to follow this blog to get notifications when I make a new post. I know there are sexier ways to do it but I couldn’t figure it out in a few minutes and FB was easy.

It works well enough. I suppose if you are reading this and hate FaceBook and want notifications you should contact me and I’ll work something out.

Anyway, FaceBook is all about promoting ‘clicks’ so I am constantly getting notifications that I can get more visitors to my page The Zach Project if only I . . . well, pay them money essentially. I don’t read them, to be honest, because the notifications always have pictures of Zach in them and I find that I always look away and scroll down as quickly as I can.

Zach speaks

I’ve used this title before and I’ll probably use it again. It’s a good title for when I quote from his journals, methinks.

So I looked in my little database tonight and I saw that Zach had a journal entry for today’s date, January 13, in 2013. Going to my folder with all the journal files, the first thing I saw was a filename with today’s date on it. Something called The Wayland Living Room.

Perhaps I should explain something first. What I’ve done with Zach’s journals is to save each file as a PDF with a name that indicates the date range of that file. In this case, Zach had a .doc file on his computer named The Wayland Living Room. I looked inside it for a date and then put the date at the front end of the new PDF file I created from it. In theory, nothing is changed except PDF files are harder to edit if someday I choose to release them. For the date format, I use yyyymmdd. Again, in this case, the file was dated January 13, 2013 so the new file name is 20130113 The Wayland Living Room. This way, they all sort out in the order they were created and it’s easy to find something by a particular date.

OK. So The Wayland Living Room is a document detailing rules for a fantasy sports league. There is nothing in it specific to any particular sport. It defines a Fantasy Leadership Council (FLC) responsible for ‘Maintaining the continuity and integrity of all Wayland Living Room (WLR) fantasy leagues.’

It goes on for five pages and is not my subject of choice. The FLC is comprised of four individuals: Zach and three others. If any of the other three individuals – who I am not going to name here – wish to have a copy of this, please contact me privately. I will be happy to share it with you. It is not of interest to me tonight.

Now, looking further in my list of file names – remember, I know the entry I want is from January 2013 – I see 20130108 – 20130519 Corleone Spring 2013. Uh oh. Corleone is Zach code for work related musings. These are often heavy with bullet pointed plans for situations at work and criticism of colleagues. (He’s plenty critical of himself too.) As I look through this document, I realize that my wonderful database which took me months to complete is not complete. I never went through the Corleone documents. Aieee!

The Corleone file has entries for January 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, and 15th (and more), but no 13th. We’ll set those aside for now, although I did get them into the database.

Is there another 201301xx file? Yes, there is! And it has an entry for this date in 2013! It starts out with:

It feels like eternity since I last wrote in here, mainly because I was only in Atlanta a week ago (crazy) and because this past week of work was relatively busy and my mind was pretty engaged with it all week, and there was a lot of mental energy expanded.  That’s a long way of saying it was a relatively satisfying week of work.

His previous entry was January 6th, a week earlier.

After some talk about exercise, basketball, finances, Rosalie, and movies, he has this to say:

I’m not sure where I found this article but it was talking about STEAM curriculum, which is a play on the Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math, but adds Arts.  I did a little research and it seems like the STEAM concept is being promoted by a faction from UCSD and the surrounding area that is mainly some ph.d’s and a few other education individuals.  Their website talks about how STEM curriculum is myopically focused on one side of the brain and the workforce needs to have more balanced individuals.  It’s a simple concept really and basically the antithesis of the STEM movement but it’s the first time I’ve ever come across any organized usage of the concept or things related to its practical implementation.  Will be interesting to monitor its growth…

An article that I read over the break from Forbes that compiled the “top 10 brain science and psychology stories from 2012” which discussed several interesting concepts: receiving a compliment is like receiving a cash gift, with regards to how our brains respond and two people working on an issue may not be better than one because with two, it breeds overconfidence.

family communication

I haven’t written here in almost a week. As usual, there are many reasons, but one big reason this past week is that I’ve spent a lot of my writing impetus writing emails to my siblings. Last year I wanted to get a new car for my mother. I thought my reasons were good, and I talked it over with both her and Dad. We did some car shopping but it got put on the back burner sometime last fall.

Word of this car shopping got out – it was never a secret – and soon questions were being asked, help was being offered etc etc by my siblings. At some point, I decided the best way to keep everyone informed was to send out a blast email after I got back from a visit with Mom and Dad.

I think it’s been quite successful. Lots of discussion has been engendered that otherwise would have taken place over months, if at all. In fact, one comment I made in an email got back to Mom in a way she didn’t expect and now there’s blowback. Not from Mom, but from another sibling, who feels we are going behind the backs of Mom and Dad.

So, I’ve been spending a lot of time explaining this or that or defending myself. Now I’m trying leverage all of that into a blog post!

The six of us are lucky that both of our parents are still living and living by themselves in their own house. The problem, if you want to call it that, is that all good things must come to an end. Dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. No one knows how that will progress except that he will continue to decline. Mom is in good health now and takes care of Dad with few problems but she is nearly the same age as him so the margin for error is razor thin. All of us help as we can but there are more and more issues that crop up that concern all of us as a group.

For me, the solution is easy. I like to write. I write about my time with Mom and Dad and send it out in a blast to my siblings. This gets everyone the same information at the same time and allows (assuming consistent reply alls) a good discussion of the issues.

I don’t know. Nothing is perfect. Not all of my siblings like to write like I do so it’s harder for them to chime in. If we were to try to do group Skype conversations (for example) it would be agony trying to find a time that would be good for everyone.

The best news is that all of us respect and like each other. I’ve heard stories of other families . . .

revisiting Zach’s journals

I got back into Zach’s journals today. I had catalogued them from 2012 through 2014 a few months ago but quailed at the thought of doing it for his last years’ of writing.

Well, today I did it. I now have a spreadsheet with a year entered on whatever date he wrote. I mean, I can look in the spreadsheet for a particular date and see in what year he wrote on that date. For example, there were no entries for this date but there was one on December 23rd in 2013. Once again I make no promises about how often or how much I will republish but I have been able to think about it more recently.

I was just wrapping up when I took one last look through the folder that has all the files. Wait a minute – there are a bunch from 2010 and 2011! So that was another hour. There’s a lot of stuff there. I’m pretty amazed that I’ve been able to look through it today without totally breaking down. I have a headache, but I’m pretty calm.

OK, here’s a paragraph from Zach’s December 23, 2013 entry:

I got up Saturday morning and got new tires on my car ($492); I had only been putting that off for 18 months.  It took quite awhile, despite me having a 730a appointment, but I ended up just sitting there and reading in the waiting room, which was pretty nice.  Time well spent.  I then went to Barnes and Noble, with two objectives–one, because Matt gave me a gift card and I had it in my mind that I would buy the new Gladwell book with it, and then have Matt borrow/read it after the new year.  I also wanted to read the third Divergent book, which came out earlier this fall.  Once I got there, I browsed around a bit, just to see what was there, which was always fun.  Then, I started reading the Divergent book and struggled with it, partially because I was uncomfortable reading it there in the story and partially because I couldn’t recall all the characters and the events of the second book, probably because I binge read it late at night over a weekend.  And then thirdly, the third book just wasn’t really grabbing me and was kind of frustrating, so I stopped after about 70 pages or so.  I’m sure I’ll eventually finish it but I couldn’t really get engrossed.  Then, I started over-thinking the purchase of a book–I felt weird buying a book, even with a gift card, and actually left the store and walked out to my car before going back in and buying the book.  I think I just felt weird about buying a book, and all I could think about was moving it when the time comes!  Crazy.


I see that it’s been a week since I went out of my norm and posted on a political theme. The hope I felt only a week ago has been dashed by the passage of the Republicans’ ‘tax reform’ bill. As a side not, I put ‘hope’ in my tag window for this post and saw that it’s the first time I’ve tagged that word. That’s pretty sad that I haven’t written about hope in 18 months of this blog.

I’ve written about goals, which are kind of like hope, I think. One implies the other, although I’m not sure which would come first.

I’m going down to stay with Mom and Dad today. Just one night then home again tomorrow night. Work on Saturday then back down to Santa Clara on Monday, Christmas Day. I believe we’ll have 13 for dinner. That’ll be nice. Tim shared with his siblings the birthday card Mom and Dad sent him last week. Dad wrote on it, which is not common any more, but it was somewhat disjointed. He referred to his having ‘half a brain’. I told Tim that that was the worst of what is happening to him: he knows. It won’t get better so, to me, that means treasuring what we can when we can. Thus, I visit as often as possible.

At work, I’ve been trying to develop relationships with people outside my norm. I try to take time to have real honest talk with some of the Davies Hall ushers, with some of the Symphony staff. Everyone is at work, so we all recognize that is our priority but there are private moments. Working primarily in the front of the house, I hardly have any contact with the musicians any more. The last three or four shows I’ve done, Sarah was playing but I didn’t have time to get back stage at the right moment to talk to her. It’s been extremely hard for me to get out and do things not work or family related.


Thursday morning, I had an idea for a nice post. I took my laundry down to the laundry room and the sun was coming in low through the foliage in our little central patio/garden. It was very pretty. When I got back upstairs, I sat at the computer to write, but I saw I had a bunch of emails. I looked through those and answered a couple and the moment was gone. I slid into FaceBook and the news of the thievery in the Senate and the sunshine meant nothing any more.

I had been thinking I would go down to Mom and Dad’s later and stay overnight but I found myself sinking further and further into torpor. I tried to come back to write, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t pick up the phone to call anyone. Eventually, I got out to the mall where I wandered around – hardly anyone was there – looking at stuff I wasn’t interested in. I had some vague idea I could do some Christmas shopping. I did get a couple of things at the drugstore and got to the grocery store.

At home about 6 pm, I ate several bowls of sugar cereal for dinner and went to bed.

Friday was much the same, only I never went out. I checked FaceBook, played solitaire, worked on the jigsaw puzzle, actually read some real books (oh, I got to the library Thursday). In the evening, I saw Rose was home so I went over to talk to her. She was working on some Christmas decorations and had a kind of technical problem so I gave her some ideas and then some tools (skinny pliers). Somehow that made me feel better. I ate a decent dinner and again went to bed early, about 8.

Today brought the news that the Senate actually passed that abomination of ‘tax reform’ but I feel a little better. Better enough to write.

It’s interesting. I want to write deep, important thoughts, but often when I’m thinking those thoughts, I don’t want to sit at the computer. Certainly the last two days were like that.

I’ve got the day off so I will try to get back to my sunny thoughts of Thursday morning and share them with you.

another blog

Ashley posted a link on FaceBook for a college friend of hers. She had a blog starting in 2010. It has the listing of post dates right at the top of the front page so I could see that. I could also see that there were no entries from April 2014 to July of 2017. Part of the reason is that Ashley’s friend developed a tumor on her brain stem. I’ve spent much of this morning looking through her blog and I see that her condition has gone from bad to worse. Her husband has been writing the posts for the last few months because chemo has completely sapped her strength.

It’s all an object lesson for us to treasure the good things we have when we have them.

Best of luck, Jordan and Brack. I’m not a praying person but I am putting positive energy into the cosmos for you.

Here’s the link.