Tag Archives: friends

Loyal To My Sorrowful Country

Eight years ago, immediately following the first election of Barack Obama, I wrote a blog piece entitled The Great Release. While I had memories of writing it, I hadn’t re-read it in the years since.

The short version of the post: it had been around eight years since I had started this blog; writing was my catharsis, and I wrote to ensure I couldn’t forget the emotions I felt on that night.

Those exact emotions, I had forgotten. Sure, there were symbolic actions (“as the tears came to my eye”) and (now) foolish declarations that the country had “spoken resoundingly” and rejected fear mongering. But the description of those eight years under Bush felt like a repressed memory:

I can not ever forget what the last eight years have done to this country. It has divided us, such that my own relatives feel that calling me a “commie pinko” is acceptable discourse. It has destroyed our good standing around the world. It has warped our values: intelligence and eloquence had become something that we no longer wanted in our leaders.

So. Here we are again. Back where we started, as though the last eight years not only hadn’t happened but had somehow caused us to backslide. Our international good standing is shattered, buffered slightly by the UK beating us to the punch some months ago. Our values have warped farther, where playing to hateful views is not only viable enough to win you the nomination, but the presidency as well. And the “commie pinko” comment from one of my in-laws was not merely said but screamed at my wife last night.

Unlike eight years ago, my emotional spectrum over the last twenty four hours doesn’t feel worth jotting down in detail. Dread, regret, sadness, indignation, exhaustion – they all eventually gave way to knowing the sun would come up and the world around me would try to find a way to continue. (As I grow older, my emotional range in narrowing; less jittery highs and lows, more smooth curves.)

The emotion I do want to focus on is the recurring theme as I check in on my friends: heartbreak and resolve.

There’s the heartbreak of my LGBTQ friends who now will wait in fear for the inevitable rolling back of their rights.

There’s the heartbreak of my married friends who have to find a way to explain this to their kids.

There’s the heartbreak of my female friends who are terrified that birth control will be outlawed.

There’s the heartbreak of my immigrant friends who have had their impressions of what this country represented fractured.

There’s the heartbreak of friends who have to face antagonistic family over the holidays, who now feel empowered to spew hate about minorities, immigrants, and imagined threats.

The heartbreak was pretty uniform, but a collective resolve is showing through soon after. Whether that’s resolve to protest, resolve to work to understand the other side, or resolve to dedicate themselves to a cause, it’s starting to show up in my conversations as much as that initial heartbreak. There’s not talk about “second amendment solutions”, little serious talk about running away to Canada – everyone’s just ready to put in the work. Society can’t change on its own.

As for me: while I need to figure out a path to make a difference on my area of biggest concern (trying to reverse decades of slow-building voter suppression efforts), the thing I’m going to focus on for now is supporting the people I care for. Despite 2016 having plenty of low points, I refuse to lose sight of the incredible group of people I get to call my circle of friends.

So to the older version of myself, who will eventually pull this post up in a future election cycles: remember that you don’t win every time. Remember that what feels like progress can disappear in the blink of an eye. Remember to put in the work. And remember to be there to help with the heartbreak, because that is when you may be needed the most.


When I wrote that piece eight years ago, I chose a fairly deep cut from the LCD Soundsystem discography for the post title. The lyrics may not have worked as well as the title did, but it stuck enough to make it through.

This year’s post comes from a 2003 Ted Leo song. The lyrics work better here, but they’re slightly at conflict with the title of the song:

No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country
No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country

And I’ve walked from coast to coast
And I’ve seen, yes I’ve seen…
No one’s business but my own
Where I’ve been, where I’ve been…

And no more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country
No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country

In the days when we were young
We were free, we were free…
Now that Georgie’s reign’s begun
We won’t be, we can’t be…

And no more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country
No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country

Though I’ve lived my bygone years
In this land, in this land…
I’ll uproot it without tears
And I’ll change it if I can!

And, no more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country
No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country

The Friend

This isn’t the post I thought would be the one to break my blogging silence, but it’s the one I need to write.


It was Sunday evening, and the perfect conditions were combining into a moment of perfect joy. The weather was spectacular. The venue, a 12th story rooftop in the heart of the city, gave us perfect views in every direction. There was barbecue, and drinks, and a few close friends up there with us. The USWNT was destroying Japan, my phone pulsing every few minutes with news of another goal.

And then, the subject turned to “The Friend”.

“Anybody hear of any leads on The Friend lately?”

“No, but did you guys know about this Tumblr…?”

While it’s far from the reason the friendship existed, there was a common bond among the group on the roof that evening: each couple had either been ripped off, or was close to someone who had been ripped off, by someone deep in the social circle that criss-crosses between NYC’s tech, food, and photoblogger communities.

The Friend disappeared from the Internet about two years ago – right after I got ripped off.


I’ve alluded to the incident in passing on this blog before, and I’ve thrown out a subtweet or two in frustration, but this will be the first – and potentially last – time I write about it at length. It’s hard to want to write about how foolish I was, how much of a sucker I momentarily became, and the negative impact that moment has had on me as a person. But the events of the last 72 hours have left me craving what little catharsis I can wring out of my own hands.


It was two years ago today that I got a text message from The Friend, threatening to throw themselves into the Gowanus.

The Friend, at this point, was someone I had known for over five years and considered extremely close. We chatted semi-regularly, saw each other on occasion at friends’ parties, and hung out when we could. In a city where you can easily go years without seeing friends, that’s a pretty good interaction rate.

The resulting IM conversation was, in hindsight, perfectly crafted. There was urgency: a client check bounced, a new place to live about to collapse. There was constant self debasement, declaring their life a failure. There was desperation about an amount of money that was neither huge nor insignificant. And in the end, an invocation of a friend I didn’t know, who had agreed to float half the amount in perfect timing with my growing inability to help.

I checked our finances. I checked with the wife. It was an amount we could live without but that we would certainly want back. So I agreed to float the other half.

My phone rang almost instantly – it should’ve been a red flag for a person who was notorious about never picking up the phone. But I was just happy to help. I wrote up a quick agreement (balance due in 30 days, failure to pay would allow the use of unspecified “further actions”), ran to the ATM, withdrew the cash, and met The Friend in the shadow of St. Paul’s Chapel. It was chosen for subway convenience rather than moral significance, but the detail is not lost on me.

The agreement was signed, the cash was handed over, we chatted briefly and everything was fine as we parted ways.

That was the last time I saw The Friend.


Three weeks later, as the due date set in, a text message conversation threw alert at me. While casually talking about meeting up (at which point I was going to gently remind about the debt), The Friend mentioned that they couldn’t meet for coffee because they were totally broke.

That would, in the end, be the last text message I would receive from The Friend.

My head tried to ignored the signs but my fingers fired off a reminder about the debt. There would be no answer.

As the debt hit the due date, more texts were sent. Emails fired off. Phone calls made and going to voicemail. Katie joined in, futile as it was. There would be no answer.

It was only days after the radio silence begun in earnest that I thought to ask mutual friends for leads, and non-mutual friends for advice. The responses sent my stomach to the floor.

“Oh no, not you too,” said more than one mutual friend.

“Is it The Friend?” said a non-mutual friend who I had spoken to in only generalities.

How could I have been so stupid?


The two years that followed became an attempt to put the incident out of mind, with occasional lapses into anger, dejection, and sheer disbelief.

Soon after, I reached out to the friend of The Friend who had allegedly floated the other half of the cash, which was of course not at all true. (He still apologized for a role he hadn’t intended to play in the deception.) I heard from a few other people who had been ripped off by The Friend, who had shared connections with me. Others had been hit for more, or in worse ways. I occasionally felt lucky that I hadn’t gotten it worse, which made me feel terrible.

The Friend went silent on social media. Occasionally there would be a sighting at an event, or on a mailing list, and I’d get a heads up from someone I had alerted. We investigated getting a PI or filing in small claims, and both were more costly than the amount we’d recover.

We hung the worthless agreement on our fridge, a sad reminder to not be so trusting and perhaps a hope that someday, The Friend might do the right thing. I felt myself pull back from putting a lot of trust in new friends. I became more cynical, more selective, less open to want to hang at length at social functions.

Every now and then, the incident would flare up at home, triggering arguments and anger at a circle of friends and acquaintances who had failed to warn us, failed to tell us not to trust The Friend. Of course, there’s no good way to have that discussion, no easy way to say something simultaneously essential and cruel. But it didn’t matter when the anger got the better of us. It would pass when other battles in life took priority.

About a year after the incident, another email would come in from someone who got burned badly by The Friend, asking to chat. They were thinking about setting up a Facebook group, or a Tumblr for fellow victims. About six months later, a Tumblr appeared, matching the emailer’s story. We found it, but didn’t think much of it.

Until this weekend, on that rooftop.


Monday morning, a friend from the rooftop posted a link to the Tumblr onto Facebook. The resulting thread ignited and burned strong for a day.

More victims appeared in the thread, nodding in agreement or expressing anger that nothing had ever been done to stop The Friend. Bewildered people who knew The Friend’s name went wide-eyed in disbelief. (A few people joked about how the thread had reunited so many people who hadn’t spoken in years.) And those who had known The Friend the longest, many of whom had been burned lightly and let it go, decried the public shaming of someone who had struggled with depression. They objected to witch hunts in a social community that was above it. They dubbed the Tumblr that had used questionable tactics in the battle for some form of justice or retribution as toxic.

(In case there’s any confusion as to why I’m not using The Friend’s name or linking to the Tumblr, it’s because multiple people took the stance that ruining The Friend’s reputation is worse than the crimes committed. While I whole heartedly disagree, I don’t want this to be about that – although I recognize the same argument that this is dehumanizing The Friend might apply.)

The only meaningful update was someone who had been in contact The Friend in January, indicating that they were now homeless and was in a “bad bad place” for having burned so many bridges.

When I read that, for a brief moment, I felt…well, not sad. Not happy either, but not terribly torn up about it.

And then I realized how much this had been eating away at me, and that all of this angst and pain and conflict inside me desperately needed a release.

The Facebook thread was taken down last night, smothered and stomped out before someone could dump more gasoline on it.


So here we are, two years past a threat to jump into the Gowanus that turned me into a fool. Allow me the following attempt at catharsis:

To the people who opted to defend The Friend on the grounds that public shaming is the wrong tactic, I understand and respect where you stand. We have all made mistakes, and no one wants their dirty laundry aired on the Internet. I would love a proper conversation with The Friend, a sincere apology, maybe even the money back. But two years of radio silence have sent the message that isn’t on the table. What you’re asking is for victims to not speak up, to sit back and just accept a crime being committed. I hope you can understand why I have such a hard time with that.

To the people who opted to defend The Friend on the grounds that their relationship was not a con or a swindle, I understand and respect where you stand. I thought the same thing, for as long as I could. I’m not even sure I can still bring myself to believe that it was intentionally a con. I just think it became convenient. I fear I became a relationship that was worth more to cash out than to keep. I hope you don’t become the same.

To the people who are harboring someone like The Friend in their social circles: speak up. Don’t assume your friends know about the damage they have caused. It doesn’t need to be vindictive, but it does need to be clear and up front.

To the person running the Tumblr, I understand and respect what you’re trying to do – and I wish someone had done it before I got taken advantage of. But I do wish you’d use better tactics, ones that wouldn’t compromise your message to those who can’t believe someone they hold close could be so awful.

To The Friend, I hope you get the help you need and can fix the damage you’ve caused in so many lives. And I hope you never do this to any one, ever again.


One of the things that makes the whole situation more complicated is that most of the social connections that drove this incident were triggered through social networking. It’s easy to find new acquaintances and friends-of-friends, to develop relationships.

The problem is, there’s rarely nuance to the connection on social networks. You follow on Twitter. You are friends on Facebook. You are a connection on LinkedIn. There aren’t labels on your social graph, no way to indicate that the connection may be waning or broken. You see a large number of mutual friends and you assume the person is on the up and up.

I, along with many others, have kept The Friend in my social network graph long after being burned. It’s out of a false hope that there will be a slip, a re-emergence, a tell that The Friend is still out there. Those slips have happened, but they’re ultimately worthless. It’s clear they’re hiding from more people than just me. Meanwhile, those connections in my graph become tacit endorsements – an opportunity to use me as a silent reference, vouching for their character. Now that I’ve wrung my hands, I just want to wash them clean.

With this post, I’ve unfriended The Friend on all the social channels I can think to. I don’t want that association hanging over my head. The margin utility of tracking isn’t worth the pain.

Time to move on.

Anil Dash on Community Moderation

Anil has penned the wonderfully named and 100% correct [“If Your Website’s Full Of Assholes, It’s Your Fault”](http://dashes.com/anil/2011/07/if-your-websites-full-of-assholes-its-your-fault.html):

> When people are saying ruinously cruel things about each other, and you’re the person who made it possible, it’s 100% your fault. If you aren’t willing to be a grown-up about that, then that’s okay, but you’re not ready to have a web business. Businesses that run cruise ships have to buy life preservers. Companies that sell alcohol have to keep it away from kids. And people who make communities on the web have to moderate them.

Really, go read it now if you have anything to do with online community building or moderation.

> So, I beseech you: Fix your communities. Stop allowing and excusing destructive and pointless conversations to be the fuel for your business. Advertisers, hold sites accountable if your advertising appears next to this hateful stuff. Take accountability for this medium so we can save it from the vilification that it still faces in our culture.

In Praise Of Adam Kuban

Truffle Pile-On

I have met many of my best friends over pizza.

In 2004 and 2005, I found myself attending a couple of “Slice Club” meetups, a gathering for people (who like pizza) to meet other people (who also like pizza). While at the time I wouldn’t have considered myself a “foodie” – nor much of a “blogger” – these events introduced me to some really fantastic people, which began so many of my friendships (both directly and indirectly), spawned adventures in NYC and beyond, and triggered more parties than I can remember.

To that end, I owe a gigantic amount of love and respect to Adam Kuban, the founder of Slice NY, creator of Slice Club, and all around awesome guy. Ironically, I did not meet Adam through Slice Club – but his friendliness and efforts to get people together over a love of pizza (and burgers!) has perhaps impacted the last five years of my life more than I realized. (As was clearly evidenced by the outpouring of connection tracing on Twitter with so many friends this evening, I am not alone in this respect.)

Why mention this today? Adam has informed the world that he is leaving Serious Eats after four and a half years there. He has done a tremendous job as a part of Ed Levine’s team, and I’m sure his future exploits will be similarly amazing.

Adam Kuban

So, many thanks, Adam. I bet you didn’t think you’d change lives with a pizza blog, did you?

The Lead Story On A Slow News Day

So yesterday, there was a big snow storm. Most of the East Coast freaked out, which is somewhat reasonable for getting over a foot of snow in about 12 hours.
Today, there was word going around that there was going to be some sort of geek snowball fight. At first glance, I was a little put off – one VC emailing a tech mailing list does not a snowball fight make. I was strong armed by (close friend) Alexandra Klasinski to show up, and so we trudged out of our warm apartment into the very snowy world.

Tech Snowball Fight

Continue reading The Lead Story On A Slow News Day

A Love Letter To Freeverse

Touch Arcade and Techcrunch have details on ngmoco:)‘s acquisition of Freeverse Software. This has a lot of implications for the iPhone software market, but I’ll let the business wonks talk about that.

Freeverse is entwined in the last 15 years of my life in ways that few things can compare. Their games and software toys helped keep me sane during high school. When my life went into a slight free-fall during college, I became anchored with an internship with them.

Continue reading A Love Letter To Freeverse

Introducing: Couplandish

There are thirty-four days until the US release of Douglas Coupland‘s latest novel, Generation A.

One of my greatest pleasures is finding intersections in aspects of my life. Before he departed the NYC area, it became apparent that my (then-)coworker Zach Szukala shared a love of Coupland’s books, and a particular love for the large-type Helvetica (always Helvetica!) aphorisms they would contain. His first novel, Generation X, embedded these every few pages in the margins, with pearls of wisdom like “YOU MUST CHOOSE BETWEEN PAIN OR DRUDGERY”. His recent attempt to recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle that Microserfs had, J-Pod, featured page after page of sentence in this style that bordered on hypnotic, if not subliminal.

After enough exposure to these books, things throughout your life begin to look…Couplandish. Spotting one of these bits can be difficult to the untrained senses: it’s a certain ratio of detachment, nostalgia, history, helplessness, and wordplay. In time, they begin to jump out at you from signs and announcements on loudspeakers.

For months, Zach and I would jokingly speak Couplandish – inventing (sometimes cribbing) phrases and snippets that we felt wouldn’t feel out of place in one of these novels we loved so much. Back in June, we started writing them down. A small amount of programming provided mid-90’s web color clashes against random large-type Helvetica (always Helvetica!) selections from the library, and Couplandish was born as a Web 1.0 application.

I realize single-serving sites are out of style now, but if you’ve ever read a Douglas Coupland book, I hope this will give you a smile.
(This is the second of two side projects that I had intended to announce. A third is now in development.)

To Hannah and Jason

Thank you all for coming today.

I am not normally the type to give wedding speeches. Despite the nearly fifteen wedding ceremonies I have attended since my own wedding in 2002, I have never once been asked to give a speech about the couple. (To be fair to my friends and family, I have not volunteered to, either.)

Continue reading To Hannah and Jason

All News Is Local

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, and this is my pledge post:

I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.

Now, it would be terribly easy to write a post about Ada Lovelace Day organizer, and close personal friend, Suw Charman-Anderson. So easy, in fact, I feel it would be a bit of a cop out. (Sorry, Suw!)

Instead, I will write about a different personal friend. Because that isn’t a cop-out at all.


A blog focusing on the goings-on of a city doesn’t sound revolutionary in 2009, but in 2002, it was practically unheard of.

In the time since, Jen Chung’s tireless editorial work at Gothamist has been a source of stability in a restless city. Day in and day out, Jen is researching, writing, posting, and responding to the news. Yesterday, she posted 15 separate stories – an average day, from what I’ve seen. In the time since Gothamist was founded, as of when I’m writing this, Jen has written eighteen-thousand-nine-hundred-ninety posts. Just for comparison: in the time it takes me to crank out a single entry, Jen is averaging fourteen – and that’s with me having a two year head-start.

Of course, it’s quality, not quantity, that counts most – and what’s even more impressive is her tireless work to cover the stories that New Yorkers are talking about and affected by. Every major NYC story over the last five years – HookerGate, the Astoria blackout, the Transit Strike, Flight 1549, even the Maple Syrup Mystery – has her fingerprints all over it. Jen’s work helped to ensure that after four years of fighting for a press pass from the NYPD – denied on the grounds of “being a website” – Gothamist was finally issued one in February for a City Hall press conference.
Her job is largely thankless. She is frequently raked over the coals by Gothamist commenters over typos and grammar mistakes. Somehow, under all that stress and pressure, Jen remains down-to-earth, friendly, and personable.

Six years has taken Gothamist from personal blog to indispensable resource. Nearly everyone I know reads it; the New York Times said it “reflects everything worth knowing about this city.” I can’t imagine living in the city without it. (To be fair and also not be beaten to death by other friends, plenty of that cause can be attributed to Jake, Neil, Tien, and the other editors.)

As one of the most prolific, knowledgeable bloggers I’ve ever met – as someone who’s work ethic is unmatched – Jen Chung is the woman in technology I admire.

On Goodbyes At The Workplace

As you may know, I work in the education segment of the technology world. This has taught me a few things.

*One*, very few people are here for the money. We tend to be below market price for base salary, and while the difference is usually made up in fringe, many people are looking at that dollar sign for an indication of self-worth.

*Two*, very few people are in it for the prestige. Despite the idea that you are afforded more lulls (not lulz) by the concepts of winter break, or spring break, or summer vacation, you aren’t. There is a constant, overwhelming pile of work – not only to keep the lights on, but to advance the mission as well.

*Three*, because of points one and two, there are a few types of people who mesh very well into this environment. It takes a very particular mix of multitasking, self-sacrifice, persistence, optimism, and zany madcap humor to feel comfortable here. It takes a person willing to trade the spoils for the stability to stay here.

I’m proud to say I work with a handful of people who fit that description. But today, I have to see one leave – not for money, not out of frustration, but to spread her wings and travel the world for a year with her husband.

This wasn’t a surprise, per se; the employee in question was kind enough to give four months notice. But it only really hit me last week, that this constant source of balance and sanity in my workplace is going to be gone as of 5PM today. The contact won’t be gone – I still expect to be chatting endlessly over IM late at night – but the constant interaction will be.

It’s tough losing someone who’s been so valuable to your work experience. And it’s hard, in an environment you’re so used to be professional in, to realize how much certain coworkers mean to you.

Enough melancholy – Paula, it’s been a dream working with you. Thank you for everything. I am undeniably jealous of your plans, and wish you all the best. New York will be here, waiting patiently for your return.