Children’s stories are kind of dark. And that’s a good thing.

Listening to a podcast about Tolkien, I really have to agree with him regarding children. So many adults have this need to shelter children from the evils of the world. Everything light. Nothing more dangerous than a rabbit running away from the mean farmer who won’t let him eat carrots.

This is almost hilariously wrong. Think of all the popular kid stories, and all the popular fairy tales too. They all have dark parts. That’s a good thing.

Living as a child, you’re awash in darkness. Realizing you can lie to your parents – and that means they aren’t omnipotent enough to stave off death. Living in a world where you have few rights. The bullying. The fact that you’re simply just new to life! 

A world where you’re surrounded by giants who order you around.

That isn’t to say we should hand them Nabokov. But look at an example of how Tolkien manages it in the Hobbit. The dwarves think Smaug might’ve found a secret passage, and Gandalf says:

“…it is too small. ‘Five feet high the door and three may walk abreast’ say the runes, but Smaug could not creep into a hole that size, not even when he was a young dragon, certainly not after devouring so many of the dwarves and men of Dale.”


We aren’t lying to children. Never lie to children. It’s an abuse of power and an abuse of trust. Plus, you have no guarantee that as they age you’ll remember to correct yourself and tell them the truth. Smaug did eat all those dwarves and men of Dale. It was a legitimately horrifying experience! 

But, of course, it doesn’t stop at the horror. It’s contained in the mildly amusing image of a big fat dragon. The children are shown a glimpse of horror – and then whisked away before they can dwell on it. The seeds are there, however. The seeds that will grow into maturity.


Removing packages installed in Rstudio

I recently switched from Macports to Homebrew. That meant using a new, ‘homebrewed’ version of R, rather than a ‘macported’ one. 

I had problems, and couldn’t find anything too helpful online, so hopefully this will serve as a guide to the next person who runs across this it.

RStudio kept giving me errors about outdated packages, but I couldn’t uninstall them. I followed these instructions, but Rstudio kept saying that the relevant packages couldn’t be found.

Here’s why : Rstudio installs packages in a completely separate place than where “normal R” packages are saved. Crazy, right?

So, if you’re trying to uninstall Rstudio packages on a Mac, try this:


Will show you the different places your library is. Note the last parameter. It might look something like this: ’/Applications/’

ip <- installed.packages() <- ip[!(ip[,“Priority”] %in% c(“base”, “recommended”)), 1]

sapply(, remove.packages, ’/Applications/’)

Or replace ’/Applications/’ with whatever isn’t the first result from .libPaths().

You might have to repeat steps 2-4 a few times. Enjoy!


Visiting the French Road Elementary School Library

The other day I visited my old elementary school’s library.

It. Was. Magical.

Shout out to the public school employees (librarians, teachers, custodians, everyone) who worked so hard to make places like a small library in the outskirts of Rochester a magical place to be.


Brighton High School and Sacco and Vanzetti

Now this is just impressive. The AP Art History class at Brighton High School did projects on, among other things, the Sacco and Vanzetti Trial.

Suburban, high-achieving students writing about the injustices done to early 20th-century anarchists.

I love it.


The Pittsford Library is kind of ridiculously nice

The Pittsford Library is kind of ridiculously nice. You can’t see it, but they actually have a chandelier!

And anyone, not just Pittsford residents, can go. The best, quietest, and fastest-wifi places are also tables that are meant to be shared. This means they’re great for running into old and new friends, as I learned when I visited last Wednesday and ran into an old high school buddy of mine.

The library is also right next to a great garbage plate place. It doesn’t just do gross hot dogs – you can get chicken breast, real fish, etc. I got chicken breast, finely chopped lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and all sorts of sauces, then ate my picnic in the shade by the Erie Canal.

A wonderful day. Definitely recommended.


Every city should have a public market like Rochester’s

There’s only one place in Rochester where people of all social classes mix. 

I went today with my folks. Ran into two friends I didn’t even know where in Rochester. Wine and olive tasting.

I also noticed, for the first time, this “Edible Wall”, set up by Rochester Teen Court. The premise is great: use gardening as a tool of rehabilitation. The actual product – well, there’s a whole lot of brown and not too much green there.

The public market is definitely a thing worth doing in Rochester.


Field Observation 1: Boulder Coffee

In my quest to meet people in Rochester, I’ve been to two different Boulder Coffee locations. One on Park Ave, the other near the Exchange/Ford street bridge.

Boulder has some claim to indie cred. The music is eclectic, and while not indie in genre (A death metal single caused a bit of a stir), it’s clearly not Top-40 drek.

The clientele seems a split of serious “I work here this is my office” type folks (of which I was one), and late-teens to mid-twenties students.

Surprisingly, they had single source Kenyan coffee for only $1.60. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it came from a pre-made tap, and wasn’t french-pressed on the spot, as I was accustomed to during my stay in Missouri.

Furniture was a good mix of faux-antique plush and “let’s get this done” chairs, desks, and stools.

The biggest disappointment, however, was how people in both locations tended to stay isolated and impersonal. They’re not rude, there’s just a large enough space that no one really interacts with each other.

I would go there again, but I’m still on the lookout for a great place that lets me get work done AND meet cool and interesting people.


Some things have changed around here

For example, back in 2007, you wouldn’t see a candidate for the Mayoral nomination mix it up with a local reporter on twitter.

That reporter, by the way, has a massive twitter following and her own popular blog.

I remember when the massive blog on the street was a quite different animal.


At my little sister’s graduation. Yay shelly!


My favorite place in the entire world

Is in the boughs of this tree


Sunny days sweeping the clouds away: finding the real America

This day was my first physically working at the Wikimedia world headquarters. Getting here was quite an adventure.

Like all great journeys, the first step was getting out of bed. Like most days, it was pretty hard. Luckily, I had my friend Mary to drag me off to breakfast. That place, Gailey’s, could serve as a symbol of one of the charms of small-city Missouri living. It’s a former drugstore, and on weekends it spills over into Ophelias, the one wine bar downtown. You get a side of toast with pretty much anything, and if you can’t choose between your roughly seven options, the waitress is happy to surprise you.

There are two coffeeshops, one pizza place, a cupcakery, and maybe two dozen bars and restaurants downtown. Oh, and one surprisingly slick library. You can find all within five minutes walk of the intersection of the two main streets downtown. This intersection doesn’t even have a traffic light. Downtown Springfield is not that kind of place.

(Oddly enough, suburban Springfield is. There are tons of Walmarts, chain stores, strip joints, etc. They all just live in big box buildings on busy streets surrounding the sleepy and walkable downtown. Strange.)

When I entered the airport to leave Springfield, I went straight to check in my baggage and get a boarding pass. The airport is small, but laid out so that the baggage claim and checkin are all in one big room. It’s nice, but also means that finding the right place to go is somewhat confusing. I finally get in line, and who do I see right next but Elizabeth and Esther Exley?

Ever since I learned that “boss” comes from Dutch for “master”, I’ve been trying to avoid using the word. No man is my master. So let’s just say Zack Exley is the guy who brought me into Wikimedia, and who gives me strong suggestions about what I might do that would be helpful. His family is great.

I spent a wonderful day hanging out with Elizabeth and Esther (wife and child) in airplanes headed west. There’s something wonderful about the way a child interacts with the world. A raised platform is actually a stage to act out Little Red Riding Hood. Composing songs is easy singing “Hugs and Kisses \ <kiss kiss kiss> \ I love you” to your mother. An ocean-themed carpet means you can mime swimming instead of just plain walking.

San Francisco is different from what I thought it would be. Less Harvey Milk, more 1%. At least, the area in which my hotel is located. Still, it’s wonderful for exploring. Friday night dinner in (this country’s first!) Chinatown with “auntie Minnie and uncle Goldwyn” featured chicken leg soup and peking duck.

Saturday, I met up with my birthday-friend Ilana. July 26th for the win. Instead of breakfast, we bought carrots and strawberries and delicious breads. Instead of paying for cheese, we bartered some surplus strawberries (we had so many!) for a generous handful of samples from a charming young man. Lunch was a bus ride down to Japantown (yes, that’s a place) and a sushi bar where the plates floated on tiny boats.

Sunday meant a new friend and a journey to the Mission (where apparently all the hipsters live) for the best burrito. It meant eating and sharing even more strawberries. Nighttime was a Ponce-de-lean roam from Chinatown to Wells Fargo in search of an open restaurant. It ended with a turkish immigrant serving me babba ghanoush and lamb kebab at a restaurant owned by his Iranian immigration attorney.

Big cities, eh?

In many ways, the two cities San Fran and Springfield, SF and SF, couldn’t be more different. One is the international headquarters of a huge pentacoastal Christian movement. The other is the national symbol of lgbt everything. Downtown Springfield could fit into just one nook of this canyon of concrete and steel. Yet, they feel similar to my heart. Maybe it’s how both showcase a strong focus on community, albeit in different ways.

In San Francisco, community means bartering strawberries for snacks at the farmers market, and running into a former college professor just strolling through. In Springfield, community means the chef of my favorite restaurant will make me a special meal every time I walk in, and fellow patrons will ask me for advice on raising their children.

In San Francisco, I have walked down a side street and stumbled upon farmers markets, outdoor exhibits, and street festivals. In Springfield, I’ve walked down a street and stumbled upon a man letting you look through his telescope and see the moon. I’ve seen artists painting sidewalks, and yes, desperate men with sandwich boards trying to cajole me from sin.

That flight, loading my tablet with child-friendly games to amuse a precocious 3-years-and-11-months old child (she insists she’s not four yet), I had a thought. “Here I am, barreling through the air at hundreds of miles per hour, and even so it will take me hours to cover even a large fraction of the width of this country. How could it possibly all be the same thing, the same nation?”

And yet. I’ve whistled the theme to Sesame Street while strolling through both. And meant it.

“Come and play
Everything’s A-OK
Friendly neighbors there
That’s where we meet”


Scene from Missouri.


Right-Wing Human-Rights group in Israel

Right-Wing Human-Rights group in Israel


By our powers combined

In January, our intrepid hero went on a quest to find wisdom. He travelled to NYC, DC, and back. In his travels, he was aided by many strong women and men, each a hero in their own right.

  • Yale Spector, the air mage, floated down from the glittering crystalline heights of the towers of code he was constructing to offer counsel about big plans.
  • Earth witch Kanglei Wang gave him a locket of the key to happiness:staying rooted and aware of the now and the new.
  • Ned Resnikoff, the wizard of water and lore, offered him hearth and home and revealed the truth: some of that (belief) which was solid, was slowly reverting back to the mists. 
  • The fiery Mikey Franklin engulfed our hero in the passion of true friendship and true hospitality. Our hero Ash Ketchum  was filled with renewed vigor: it was time to be a Pokemon Master re-engaged in the grand struggle to better people’s lives.

Yet, these powerful sorcerers could only help our hero cut and refine the gems of wisdom he found in DC, the heart of empire. Only one person could properly prepare our hero for that challenge: Elly Kalfus, wielder of the power of Heart. 

The wisdom he found in DC, inside the very heart of the empire, is a story for another day. 


Local man relocates to new locales

Springfield, MO — Sahar Massachi is undergoing a change of identity and home base. Having left the startup he co-founded, he moved to Rochester, NY to figure out his next steps. That process led to him joining the Wikimedia foundation and moving temporarily to Springfield, MO. The effect these changes have had on his psyche are yet undetermined and still ongoing.

Springfield residents are mostly as-of-yet unconcerned and befuddled by this newcomer to their midst. “Sahara? Zoharee?” a bemused, bespectacled, bearded man was overheard muttering in a local cafe, only to have Massachi patiently repeat his refrain: “It’s like Sarah, except you switch the ‘R’ and the ‘H'”. So far he’s been seen huddled with Christian pastors, entrepreneurs, and indigenous hipsters. We’ve even spotted him with that rare species: “Missouri Jew“. What is he planning? No one seems to know.

Massachi is here, so he says, to learn and work with area enigma Zack Exley. When we asked him what that work entailed, we were treated to some undecipherable verbiage about “graphs” and “big data” and “millions of dollars”. Further enquiries resulted in the stubborn refrain of “more soon. Gotta figure out this Dutch problem first”. Clearly, he’s up to something.

Pressed about his feelings about the town that is his new temporary home, Massachi said the following:

Well, I’ve been here a bit more than two weeks. So I don’t know. People here say that Springfield is like a small town that happens to have a lot of people in it. Which I sort of see. And that’s really cool! I miss living on a campus and downtown is sort of that feeling. Except so far I don’t know most people I pass on the sidewalk. Maybe soon, though.

The people here are really interesting. I’ve met Christian Anarchists, Evangelicals, and just plain people who loooove Jesus. Trying to get to know them and see what their life is like. I’ve also met a bunch of people who don’t identify as Christian, but have had to live in this bible-belty culture. And their reaction to it is interesting too. I’m trying this new thing where I just ask everyone I meet questions. It’s cool. And random people I meet end up knowing each other, which could be cool or scary. I’m not sure yet. And I really enjoy the fact that there’s a place in town where you can play 80’s arcade games all night for a flat $5. Not because I go there often – I’m just glad something that quirky can exist. Oh man, I’m rambling, aren’t I?

This is all off the record, right?

In fact, it wasn’t.

More on this story as it develops.