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Recapitulation theory ("ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny") puts forth that incubating humans act out evolution as they grow from zygote to baby. This was a popular idea a century ago, but it's turned out the science isn't that simple. Yet the principle holds that the dividing fetal cells are engaged in a kind of performance of all of evolution—from simple to complex, from general form to specific form. The developing human loses its tail early, gains a cerebrum later.

Thus newborns are time boiled down, and every ounce gained is another 20 or 30 million years of life; they compress the three billion years since abiogenesis into a nine- or ten-month performance that runs from conception to birth. By the time they arrive they have gone for rides on comets, teased dinosaurs with sticks, come down from the trees, and run across the savannah.

The day before we were scheduled for our Caesarean I told the Internet that I was packing for a very long trip and wasn't sure what to bring. People—friends and strangers—wrote with suggestions: Spare pants. A suitcase filled with books. Your wife. Extra underwear and camping detergent; a hoodie and a flask. The head and <3. Can organic mixed nuts, first aid kit, cash hidden in wallet belt, an extra pair ultra comfortable shoes. Carseats. Toothbrush. Multiple chargers. Take less. Pillows and a blanket for you, easy snacks, every kind of memory-recording device. Bring a sandwich. Music. And patience. Half the clothes and twice the money, and lots and lots of gin.

So a few days ago we packed everything and went to the hospital. And a few hours after we arrived the clock—our clock—reset from 3.5 billion to zero.

Hello little girl. And two minutes later: Hello little boy.


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Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.

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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.

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Recent

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

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Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

The Moral Superiority of the Streetcar. (1) Long-form journalism fixes everything. (2) The moral superiority of the streetcar. (3) I like big bus and I cannot lie. (May 4)

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