Thursday, 11 August 2016

I caught a glimpse of my life from the cor­ner of my eye the other day & re­al­ized I ap­pear to have be­come a care­fully dressed, quar­terly mag­a­zine-read­ing, European wagon-dri­ving, scotch-lov­ing, in­suf­fer­able, tweedy, bearded cliché.

I hate that. Problem is: I like all of those things. Even be­ing in­suf­fer­able. So yeah, I’ve got some cham­pagne tastes on a beer bud­get.

I’m try­ing to give my­self sparse so­lace be­cause while I ap­pear to be the cliché, my tem­pera­ment is dif­fer­ent. (I hope). I don’t like cool jazz, NPR, The New Yorker, or pretty much any other safe, soft, ac­cepted, lib­eral com­fort-blan­kets. After I stopped be­ing Actively Catholic®, I went to an Episcopal church for a bit, the mes­sage was good but the peo­ple were ag­gra­vat­ingly mil­que­toast about every­thing. To para­phrase some­thing some­one said some­time: The meek will in­herit the earth be­cause no one else will take it. That’s those peo­ple. God bless ‘em. No one else will.

Anyway, but. If you catch me out of the other eye-cor­ner, you’ll see a greasy-spoon eat­ing, dive bar planted, un­leashed dog walk­ing, win­dows open hol­lerin’ at my kid, shirt­less on the porch, filthy-jeaned, south­ern-drawl­ing met­al­head.

I love that. Problem is: ain’t al­most no one else does.

I some­times won­der what con­clu­sions peo­ple reach about me at work, but I’m too busy work­ing to care about it.

I like high brow. I like low brow. I pre­tend mid­dle­brow doesn’t ex­ist.

I have no other point.

If you need one then the point is that the world is messy & even when I re­ject stereo­types, I of­ten use them in the same breath. I’m un­re­pen­tant. I just try to im­prove.

Father’s Day

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

So hey, it’s nearly Father’s Day again. A day that is fraught for me — I know what stirs up the anx­i­ety and it’s mainly ig­no­rance at how well I’m do­ing my job.

I’ve cer­tainly writ­ten about it enough:

Being a dad is my fa­vorite thing and be­ing a sin­gle dad is a pretty tough job. I don’t know how much eas­ier it would be with a part­ner, so I don’t know how hard it is to be a dad in a nuclear/​whole fam­ily for­mat. The times I’ve had a part­ner that got to spend qual­ity time with my child, That third di­men­sion added a no­tice­able and healthy level of com­plex­ity to our lives. So I of­ten feel that that my father/​son dy­namic is two-di­men­sional in com­par­ison. We miss out on a lot to­gether be­cause I have to work, and main­tain a clean home, provide healthy meals, and struc­ture and adult in­struc­tion he doesn’t get else­where. I have a bit of guilt over this — I feel like the added level — that part­ner, that nu­clear fam­ily, is some­thing I should be able to provide to him.

Being a sin­gle dad is tough in weird ways. I’m not as self-con­scious as I was a few years ago about be­ing a sin­gle dad out with his kid. I don’t care — but I do no­tice the other sin­gle dads, and help out when I can by tak­ing pho­tos. I know those in­ter­nal mo­ments of cha­grin when you take a pic­ture of your kid do­ing some­thing mem­o­rable with no way to show that yes, you were there, you were the one to make it hap­pen. There also isn’t an emoji for sin­gle par­ents.

I also worry about him when he’s with his mom. We have di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed views on 99% of what is in his best in­ter­est. The only way to mit­i­gate is to lit­i­gate and I don’t make that kind of cash. I do my best to teach my son the skills he is not learn­ing else­where, and I must also keep rein on my­self so that I don’t try to over­com­pen­sate to solve for his other life.

I’m 20+ years out from hav­ing had any mean­ing­ful, non-far­ci­cal in­ter­ac­tion with my dad. I only have a sense of him from a 14 year old boy’s per­spec­tive — I’ve learned to be a man by trial and er­ror, and learned to be a fa­ther by be­ing not-my-fa­ther. Yet I’m smart enough to re­al­ize that “not-my-fa­ther” is a 14 year old’s shal­low un­der­stand­ing of fa­ther­hood. The only ways that I know I’m act­ing like my fa­ther are the only ways I knew my fa­ther acted when I was 14. I know I was a dis­ap­point­ment to him. I do not know if he was proud of me. I do not know if he had wis­dom to im­part to a grown son. I do not know the ways I am a re­flec­tion of him. I’ve asked fam­ily mem­bers to tell me how he was — or what they see of him in me, and haven’t got­ten the best an­swers.

My mom tried and failed to an­swer that ques­tion, no fault there — how does one an­swer it? But sweetly and clev­erly ap­proached it this year by send­ing me a photo al­bum of pic­tures of me and my dad — the most re­cent one over 25 years old. The al­bum is more than half empty. I can’t look at the pho­tos with­out cry­ing — and they are fa­mil­iar tears — they are the ones I get when­ever I’m ter­ri­fied that I’m not be­ing a best par­ent — when I lose my con­cep­tion of what it means to be a best par­ent — when I don’t know what to do to help my son grow into some­one brave, in­de­pen­dent, em­pa­thetic, lov­ing, and ca­pa­ble. The pic­tures show love, but what hap­pened to it? Where did it go? Being a fa­ther is high fuck­ing stakes, and I’ve al­ways hated sec­ond-rate, and not know­ing when the rules change.

I want to know these things about my fa­ther be­cause I have no fa­ther fig­ure to seek ad­vice from. I have three won­der­ful un­cles who each provide their own ex­cel­lent ex­am­ples of how to be a good fa­ther, but I don’t feel close enough, or safe enough, or like they un­der­stand me like a fa­ther would in or­der to ask for ad­vice. I’ve been per­fect­ing bravado since I gave up on my fa­ther at 14. I don’t know how an adult son ap­proaches a fa­ther. I’ve had no prac­tice be­ing the son in a healthy re­la­tion­ship, or hav­ing a healthy fa­ther. I feel bad that my son and I have to fig­ure this out to­gether. I don’t know, is it like that for every fa­ther?

Most of the peo­ple who tell me I’m a good fa­ther have had crummy fa­thers. I don’t know if that means any­thing, or if I’m just be­ing an ass.

Father’s Day is fraught be­cause my son has no one to teach him to honor his fa­ther. A fa­ther can’t do it — that’s nar­cis­sis­tic. He’s missed the prepa­ra­tions for sev­eral Father’s Days — all I want is a hand­made card and a candy bar — but I don’t blame him. Someone else should be teach­ing him to take care of that busi­ness. He’s only 8. There is zero fault for him in this — but it shows me that there are some things I can’t teach him, and that he won’t learn at all un­less there is some­one else to teach him. When my mom was up here a cou­ple of week ago I asked her to get him to work on a card while I ran er­rands. That’s the kind of stuff a sin­gle dad has to do.

He says he’s go­ing to be a sin­gle fa­ther, and adopt a daugh­ter and a son. They are go­ing to live on an ex­o­planet and I can come visit on a rocket when­ever I want. I know what all of that means, and I know the mean­ing of none of it.

The point that comes from all of this, if there is one, ap­pears to be a chronic, low-grade fever feel­ing that I am not giv­ing my son the best life that he de­serves. I doubt, I grope for tools I never saw used, and don’t know the name of. I work the skills I do have, but don’t have enough time to give him every­thing I want him to have. A healthy meal and emo­tional sup­port solve a lot, but not every­thing. I have him half of the time and that is just not enough for me to give him all he needs. I’m ef­fi­cient, but he’s a boy, not a process.

So there is it. I feel my best isn’t good enough — and I hate sec­ond-rate. What do I tell my­self?

Who cares? It doesn’t mat­ter. I don’t do this for glory, renown, or my own sat­is­fac­tion. I love my son. I do it for him.

So fresh and so clean clean.

A photo posted by Adam Harvey (@adamincle) on


Friday, 13 May 2016

About a year ago I wrote about giv­ing up, and pro­ceeded to live a rel­a­tively monas­tic life for a the rest of 2015. My kith and kin were con­cerned that I was de­pressed. I don’t think I was, but I do think I might have been a bit bleak in my fram­ing. As I sat on my porch tonight, I lis­tened to Ali Farka Touré’s wan­der­ing gui­tar, drank some scotch, and pet my dog.

The only thing I missed was my son. Having him every day would be a dream come true, but 50% is the best I can hope for. I get a lot of sat­is­fac­tion from striv­ing to do well as a fa­ther and at my job. The rest of the things that I’d like but don’t have are no big deal — and that’s what gave me a thought that hap­pi­ness isn’t hav­ing every­thing you want — it’s ap­pre­ci­at­ing what you have in com­par­ison to what you don’t. It’s a round­about way of reach­ing a cliché, but it’s some­thing I needed to re­learn.

I don’t think it’s pos­si­ble to be happy un­less you’re miss­ing at least one big thing from your life. There’s no shape to what you have if you have every­thing — and try­ing to have every­thing usu­ally means that you cut cor­ners.

Happiness is pay­ing at­ten­tion to the shape of what you have, not the empti­ness around it.

Satiety is hav­ing enough, not hav­ing it all.

Food tastes bet­ter when you know you’ll be hun­gry to­mor­row.

I still miss my son.

Yelling at Clouds

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

I’ve been “Old Man Yells at Cloud” a bit more than usual lately.

That was my re­ac­tion to see­ing a photo of a $30 plate of ribs, coleslaw, pick­les & bread at Michael Symon’s new restau­rant, Mabel’s BBQ. It was the thin slice of white bread in par­tic­u­lar that drove me to such heroic lengths. My beef is, I think, le­git­i­mate. Foods that have been tra­di­tion­ally val­ued for their sim­plic­ity, tra­di­tion, & nos­tal­gia have been hi­jacked by haute cuisine and pa­raded around in gar­ish cos­tume.

I feel like the ex­pe­ri­ence of a cul­tural, re­gional, or eth­nic cuisine is en­hanced by en­joy­ment of it in con­text. I’m an an­thro­pol­o­gist; I want the cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence of get­ting amaz­ing, noth­ing-fancy ribs from a guy cook­ing them in a con­verted steel drum at an aban­doned gas sta­tion on East 131st Street. I want to buy pou­tine in sub-zero temps from a food truck in Kingston, ON that has been park­ing in the same spot and serv­ing the same lunch to the same group of peo­ple for years. I want black-pep­pered grits, ei­ther plain or cooked in pot­likker. I want to go into a restau­rant in Little Arabia or Ukrainian Village or Asia Town where English is a sec­ond or third lan­guage and take my chances.

I’ve iden­ti­fied two things about this that drive me crazy, and a pretty solid rea­son why I’m be­ing un­fair, which I’ll get to in a min­ute.

  1. Branding/​Marketing. The suc­cess­ful haute cuisine is so ag­gres­sively mar­keted and gran­u­larly branded that the ex­pe­ri­ence be­comes less about the food and more about the ex­clu­siv­ity of it. Everything is sold as if it is ar­che­typal — post­mod­ernist ed­i­bles.
  2. Safety. The suc­cess­ful restau­ran­teur these days seems to be a white guy who ap­pro­pri­ates a non-white cul­tural cuisine and ad­ju­di­cates its pre­sen­ta­tion in such a way that the sur­round­ings feel safe and com­fort­able to other white folks. That’s not an ad­ven­ture to me.

When I say haute cuisine, I’m talk­ing about a kitchen that mansplains food. “You ple­beians, here’s how you should be mak­ing your poor-folk food.”

I took a course called Crucial Conversations a few weeks ago, and one of the things we learned is when to iden­tify sit­u­a­tions where you’re telling your­self a story be­cause you lack enough in­for­ma­tion to re­ally know what’s go­ing on. So I tried to come up with an al­ter­na­tive story to why some­one might do things to foods that I love that I find com­pletely un­con­scionable. The eas­i­est em­pathic path I was able to come up with is think­ing of a restau­ran­teur as an artist. The stuff they are do­ing to food is their art. I can at least un­der­stand that mo­tive, even if I think there’s a met­ric butt-ton of priv­i­lege in the im­ple­men­ta­tion. An artist would, can, and some­times should ig­nore cul­tural con­text if they are remix­ing an­other art. This al­lows a food artist to ig­nore the fact that Wonder Bread is nap­kins and gravy-sop for poor Southern folks and cre­ate an ar­ti­sanal hand-ground, preser­v­a­tive and HFCS-free white bread to go with the $30 lamb BBQ. The thing be­ing val­ued is the ex­clu­siv­ity and remix, not the au­then­tic­ity. Damien Hirst as chef.

I can at least un­der­stand that, even if I think it’s dumb.

Most folks I know don’t think of me as par­tic­u­larly con­ser­v­a­tive, but on the whole I tend to value the ver­nac­u­lar — craft over art, things that re­main rather than things rein­vented. Maybe I’m a mis­an­thro­pol­o­gist.

Tangentially, I read an ar­ti­cle to­day about co-sleep­ing and whether it’s good or bad. This is such a silly ar­gu­ment to me — like ar­gu­ing whether cir­cum­ci­sion is good or bad. (If it wasn’t meant to be there, it wouldn’t be). It wasn’t that long ago that women were com­pletely knocked out when they went into labor and “med­ical pro­fes­sion­als” took de­liv­ery on from there be­cause that was con­sid­ered bet­ter than nat­u­ral child­birth. It wasn’t that long ago that for­mula was con­sid­ered a bet­ter op­tion than nat­u­ral nurs­ing. Currently, peo­ple in Western coun­tries think it is bet­ter to leave a new­born in­fant alone, in a quiet room, for most of the day or night and to keep track of them via an elec­tronic mon­i­tor than keep them close for com­fort. Forget the fact that pri­mates have been:

  1. hav­ing nat­u­ral birth for mil­lions of years
  2. nurs­ing their off­spring for mil­lions of years
  3. not let­ting new­born off­spring out of their sight for mil­lions of years

By all means, keep the in­fant in a dark, quiet, sep­a­rate room, com­pletely cut off from warmth, com­fort, and sta­bi­liz­ing in­flu­ence of their par­ents. I’d cry too.

Yeah, def­i­nitely a mis­an­thro­pol­o­gist.

Leadership & Humility Training

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

This week my work hours are filled with train­ing. I spent the first two days learn­ing how to con­duct fa­cil­ity as­sess­ments for ADA stan­dards — in iso­la­tion, this not typ­i­cally some­thing that an IT guy would be ex­pected to learn — but there are good or­ga­ni­za­tional rea­sons for me to be in­volved at this level of de­tail. Two days down, two more to go for next week. Today and to­mor­row I’m tak­ing Crucial Conversations — learn­ing tech­niques to ap­ply rea­son and tact in im­por­tant sit­u­a­tions where our lizard hind­brains make it dif­fi­cult to be rea­son­able or tact­ful.

I have been to quite a few lead­er­ship acad­e­mies, soft skills, and sundry other train­ings since I was in high school — there’s al­ways some­thing new to learn — and that’s the main point I have here. There’s al­ways some­thing new to learn.

We’re so­cial pri­mates, so en­forc­ing sta­tus through si­lence or vi­o­lence is the evo­lu­tion­ary rule. Culture, dif­fer­ent cul­tures, and cul­tural be­hav­iors in this con­text are tools just as much as a knap­ping stone is a tool — things we use to solve prob­lems. Keeping that in mind en­forces a kind of hu­mil­ity. Status is pride-bound. A chain of bosses pulled from a bar­rel of mon­keys. Leadership is hum­ble, it aims at the goal, not the sta­tus. The type of or­ga­ni­za­tion (a group of so­cial pri­mates with dif­fer­ent roles and dif­fer­ent sta­tuses united around com­mon goals) that leads is one that makes a com­mit­ment to be a cer­tain way, rec­og­nizes its weak­nesses with hu­mil­ity, and de­ter­mi­nes the work to meet those com­mon goals.

Following ADA stan­dards (and sec­tion 508 stan­dards to tie it in to my own work) re­quires the abil­ity to step out of one’s own sta­tus in or­der to un­der­stand how we can be mind­ful of the needs of oth­ers. It’s an on­go­ing hum­bling, be­cause lead­er­ship is about ad­mit­ting your ig­no­rance and ac­cept­ing that there is al­ways some­thing new to learn.

About Giving Up

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Giving up is some­thing I’ve been try­ing to learn the last cou­ple of years. It doesn’t come nat­u­rally to me (or any American, prob­a­bly), but it does take away some chronic stres­sors. From a busi­ness stand­point, the things I’ve given up on are all things that have had no re­turn on the in­vest­ment I’ve made try­ing to achieve them. I’m not say­ing that the good things in life must be de­fined in terms of cap­i­tal, but I have lim­ited means to in­vest, and so I’ve opted out of mar­kets where I’ve been wast­ing my time.


I’ve given up on dat­ing. My last re­la­tion­ship ended in February, and in that time I’ve gone on 3 dates, and have been can­celed on or stood up prob­a­bly 9 times. I haven’t even tried since June. I’m a 34 year-old sin­gle dad, which severely lim­its both the avail­able time, and the num­ber of women who might be in­ter­ested in me that I am also in­ter­ested in. For awhile I was go­ing out by my­self, but I be­came en­vi­ous of all the cou­ples I saw. For all the time, money, and ef­fort I was ex­pend­ing, I was in the same spot. I keep re­view­ing past re­la­tion­ships in hind­sight and sec­ond-guess­ing my de­ci­sion-mak­ing. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, there’s never a clear an­swer when it comes to love.


I threw a party a few weeks ago and in­vited about a dozen peo­ple that I con­sider friends or see on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Most said they’d come, but only three showed up. A year ago I would have in­vited dozens of peo­ple, but in that time I’ve re­duced my “friend list” from a cou­ple hun­dred to about four dozen. I re­moved every­one who I hadn’t seen or heard from in nine months or more. I’ve also pretty much stopped us­ing Facebook. I un­fol­lowed every­one left on my friends list, and only use it for mes­sen­ger or events. Drastic, yeah, but if peo­ple want my com­pany, they know how to get in touch. The peo­ple I’m still in touch with, I was in touch with on the reg­u­lar be­fore. I have three folks I’d con­sider good friends. We talk weekly, and did so even be­fore I started ra­dio si­lence.

Life Goals

By now I was hop­ing to be mar­ried, with a fleet of kids, and liv­ing in a nice home that I own. To be set­tled down. Maybe have air con­di­tion­ing. I’ve given up on those goals. I made a cou­ple of poor de­ci­sions in 2007 that ir­rev­o­ca­bly changed my life. I’ve re­signed my­self to be­ing a sin­gle dad; to not hav­ing any more kids; to rent­ing for the rest of my life. The kids piece is the hard­est one for me to rec­on­cile my­self with. As an only child, I al­ways swore that I would have more than one child my­self. Being a dad is the great­est thing that has ever hap­pened to me, but it’s only go­ing to hap­pen once.

So, what?

Having given up on the above, I am bet­ter able to fo­cus and in­vest my en­ergies on be­ing a dad to Abraham, and work­ing hard at my job. After those items are squared away, I’m fairly monas­tic. Bike rides, walk­ing my dog, main­tain­ing the house I rent. Trying to sim­plify. If not happy, at least con­tent; mind­ful. It is very hard.

Some Job Interview Basics

Sunday, 12 July 2015

I’ve been on the other side of the ta­ble for job in­ter­views the last few months. One thing that I’ve no­ticed is lack of can­di­date prepa­ra­tion in the in­ter­view process. I want to hire peo­ple who work hard to get the job they’ve ap­plied for. Here’s what I like to see from a can­di­date:

  • Clarity, hon­esty, pre­ci­sion, con­ci­sion. Your cover let­ter, re­sumé, and in­ter­ac­tions with the staff in­ter­view­ing you should demon­strate forth­right­ness. If you don’t know some­thing, ad­mit it. That will get you more points than try­ing to weasel your way around the an­swer. Don’t ram­ble.
  • Demonstrated knowl­edge of the busi­ness and po­si­tion. If you know jack about the or­ga­ni­za­tion or the position’s re­quire­ments, you ap­pear ill-pre­pared.
  • Asking ques­tions about the busi­ness and how the po­si­tion fits within it. If you do not show a de­sire to un­der­stand how a job fits within an or­ga­ni­za­tion, you prob­a­bly do not care about the organization’s mis­sion or val­ues.
  • Show re­spect for the process by dress­ing up. You don’t have to be rich to look nice, and peo­ple no­tice. I wore a tie to my in­ter­view at Burger King when I was 15½. I wore a tie to my in­ter­view as a sea­sonal teamster/​warehouseman when I was 18.
  • Be ready to an­swer tough ques­tions. Even a me­nial job will re­quire the abil­ity to deal with the un­ex­pected. We’ll want to know that you know how to han­dle those un­ex­pected sit­u­a­tions.

It boils down to one rule: Work as hard to get the job as you’ll work if you get it.

We’ll no­tice.