My friend wore a green parka. She is, like I now am, self-employed, and called me this afternoon using Skype, which I can already see, a few weeks into my new career, is going to be a problem. Behind her a cat moved, rendered as a set of small animated blocks, like something made of Scrabble tiles. "That green parka," I said. "Let me ask you a question about it."

She waved her arm to point to herself, and to the parka. That caused a problem, a stutter in the system, and then we were both trying to speak at once:

"The parka?" "—Kay—"
"—Ahead—" "—Go—"
"—So—" "—Yeah—"
"—That—" "—Parka—"

We were silent for a while, waiting.

"Go ahead," she said. "Ask your question."

This is the era for brief, frequent pauses. Pinwheels, little watches. FOUC. Vi.Me.O. The future arrives in five-second bundles, but then for the next ten seconds you're back in the past.

The 80s was the last truly futuristic decade. Skinny ties. Power, Corruption & Lies. Tass Times in Tonetown. Something about constant nuclear threat and Neuromancer. After that we kind of caught up with the future. Before, well, the future in the 70s was much goofier. Filtered cigarettes. R2D2. Kitchen appliances. People kept coming up with new kinds of magnetic tape, and new ways to change vinyl records.

I wonder if when we look back at this month of iPad if we'll think what an amazing moment to have lived through, or if it will be like some guy with sideburns telling your dad about the reel-to-reel player in his carpeted van.

.  .  .  .  .  

This man I know once took me out on his sailboat and, long story, but I had to bring the boat around alongside another boat using a rope. He said to me, as I did this: "Listen. You can't go too slow. There is no such thing as too slow. You can only go too fast." And I thought about that for a long time. It's a nice thing to think about, on the weekends, if you have a sailboat.

.  .  .  .  .  

In my novel nervous teenagers go to startup school in abandoned skyscrapers. (I like to say "In my novel..." a lot, instead of writing. I also like to organize my text-conversion pipeline. My latest idea is to port the novel to org-mode.)

.  .  .  .  .  

I want to live in a historically awesome moment. What if in the map of time this is one of the small towns? What if this is someplace we drive through to get somewhere interesting? If right now turns out to be nowhere? Then again have you messed with spatial search in Solr? Right now is turning out to be everywhere.

.  .  .  .  .  

I met an Amish inventor once. Everything he worked on turned out buggy.

.  .  .  .  .  

"My question is," I said, when the pauses settled, "is how many days in a row have you worn that parka?"

My freelancer friend thought for a moment.

"Actually," she said, "that's a very good question."

.  .  .  .  .  

Internet connections mostly fail on users 50-64-years-old, March 12, 2009, IT Facts:
All demographic groups are about equally likely to have certain devices fail them, though seniors who own cell phones are significantly less likely than younger cell phone owners to have problems with their cell phones. Just 18% of cell phone owners 65 years old and older reported that their cell phones had failed in the past year, while 26% of 50-64 year olds, 33% of 30-49 year olds and 30% of 18-29 year olds reported cell phone problems. Seniors are not as exclusively reliant on their cell phones as younger owners, and so they may have less wear and tear on their phones than do younger users who are more likely to experience cell phone failure.

We got the landline back in the new apartment. I can't tell you how happy that made me. I call people on it all the time. It's like we're in the same room. Getting older.




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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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

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)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

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)

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