Things I don't understand even after they are explained to me

  1. Why public art is so ugly.
  2. Why the public are not up in arms about the ugliness of public art.
  3. Why I continue to drink and even occasionally desire beer even though it isn't actually that tasty to me.
  4. Why people are evil. (Some people really are. No, some people are really, really evil, if you didn't know. If you claim not to know, then either you haven't seen enough of the world to know, or you're lying. Or you have a stupid philosophical theory.)
  5. Why philosophers put so much work into some pretty transparently stupid philosophical theories.
  6. How people who have been taught the tools of critical thinking and independent reasoning end up following each other in what are more or less intellectual mobs.
  7. Why rich people pay massive amounts for truly ugly buildings that they proceed to work or live in. They can't possibly like being there.
  8. Why parents and teachers continue to tolerate the entire appalling textbook system, generation after generation. (Most textbooks suck surprisingly badly upon a little examination.)
  9. Why there are so many people in the orbit of the Clintons who were murdered, committed suicide, or died in a plane crash.
  10. Why gazillionaires, who could buy whatever the hell they wanted, choose to buy some of the most godawful dreck on the market for millions of dollars.
  11. Why so many serious people seem to take such artistic taste seriously. (It can't just be because a lot of money is spent.)
  12. Why public opinion about gay marriage apparently changed on a dime. (I have a theory, but I don't find it that convincing.)
  13. Why some psychologists and journalists write things that for all the world look like pedophilia apology—as if the mental health of pedophiles were somehow more important than protecting children from predators.
  14. Why there aren't more journalists that seem to care very sincerely about neutrality.
  15. Why, despite rough attempts, no one has made a real, credible effort to start a really neutral news service. (You'd have to think through what this really requires. Why hasn't anyone done so? I don't get it.)
  16. Why more quite intelligent people become such idiots when they talk or write about politics. Most people lose about 20 IQ points when they write about politics.
  17. Why people allowed child abuse to go on in the Catholic Church, and other institutions, for so long; why management seems to tolerate it and not keep a sharp lookout for it.
  18. Why educational psychologists have not systematically examined the very real (and quite easy-to-prove) phenomenon of teaching babies and toddlers to read. Makes no sense to me at all.
  19. Why Republican politicians keep voting for higher spending and, often, higher taxes.
  20. Why there are next to no schools that get rid of grades in preference to ability grouping.
  21. Why we seem so chummy with Saudi Arabia in particular, and not necessarily with other oil-producers.
  22. Why so many politicians believe in astrology. How do you get to such a position of responsibility and still believe in fairy tales?

Yes, I know I have a lot to learn still.

More coming.


The meeting of the Larrys

Today I was on Larry King Now (his Hulu/YouTube/RT program, similar to the old CNN "Larry King Live"). I was on a half-hour panel about blockchain with XYO's Markus Levin and Eric Tippetts of NASGO. It's due out March 1.

Here are some pictures:

Larry and the panelists

The two Larrys (Larries?)

Everipedia (Sam Kazemian and moi) meets the master of interviewing

Striking a Larry King-esque pose


Further, alarming evidence of Larry's creeping geekhood

Isn't she beautiful

Yes, I'm another one who has plunked down unnecessary amounts of money just to get a keyboard with keys that bump, click, and have precise activation points, and with switches that people care a lot about, changeable keys, etc. So far, I don't regret the purchase one bit and I'm rather happy with it. And proud, since here I am bragging about it.

Not only did I get one of these contraptions, called a mechanical keyboard, I totally geeked out and got a 61-key (so called "60%") keyboard. This cut out the function keys, the arrow keys, the number pad, etc. How do I type all that stuff? What about when I want to do a screen capture? Well, for that there is the function layer. In fact, there is the default function layer, which has things like the arrow keys (on my keyboard, they're the green keys, I, J, K, L), as well as three more programming function layers. I don't have to use the Fn key to activate the function layer, either; I can use the Caps Lock key, which I reassigned to Fn with a simple dip switch. So if I want to print the screen, I simply type Fn (or Caps Lock) + p.

I bought the above keyboard from WASD Keyboards. They allow you to choose your keys and choose what is printed on your keys (see what I have on my space bar?). Mine is fitted with the both-bumpy-and-clicky Cherry MX Blue switches, and I can confirm that the bumpyclickiness is "satisfying," whatever that means, in this context, exactly. I do feel approximately 5% geekier, which puts my geekiness ratio might higher than it was not that long ago, what with having installed Linux and starting to really pay attention to privacy. (Speaking of privacy, as some have observed, I need to make larrysanger.org https: . I will soonish, honest.)

So why spend this money (OK, it was $160) on a keyboard? The usual reasons are mine, too: the keys are rather more pleasurable to type on (it's true! The sense of precision is great!). The colors on the self-designed keys make me happy. The high quality also makes me happy. And as for the reasons for a 60% keyboard: I think it will make me a faster writer and coder, as I don't have to leave the center of the keyboard (I'm already seeing this to be the case). It also means I don't have to reach over the extra keys to get to the mouse, so my fingers can be directly in front of me, with the keyboard centered in front of my monitors. I couldn't do this with my old keyboard, which hogged the desk. My workspace is simpler now and that's actually a bigger deal than I thought it would be.

Normally, I would have put the above paragraphs on Facebook and/or Twitter. Instead, as part of my movement away from social media, I decided to put it on my blog and let people find it their own damn selves, and if not many people do find it, and if it has zero chance of "going viral," ask me if I care.


Eric the Omnipotent

I've been making up a bedtime story for my boys (ages 12 and 8). I decided to start writing it down. What I have below is the first few evenings' worth. I have a fair bit to catch up; there will be adventures at school, making money, and trips here and there. I thought I'd share it on my blog to invite some feedback. Let me know what you think.

Chapter One

Once
upon a time, there was a boy named Eric, age 10, who lay dreaming of
bacon. It was a very vivid dream. He saw it cooked to perfection in a
pan; he smelled that inviting, savory smell; he even heard it
sizzling. Then, in his dream, he saw the gorgeous bacon removed from
the pan, ready to eat on a plate. There was a lot of it, but not too
much. It was the perfect
amount of perfect bacon.

Then Eric jolted
awake and sat up and rubbed his eyes. Next to him, on his nightstand,
was just the plate of bacon that he had dreamed. It was still
sizzling.

“Gee, thanks,
Mom!” he called out.

Eric looked for his
mother to appear in the doorway, but no one did and no one replied.
Eric shrugged and took a piece of bacon. It was, indeed, just as
perfect as in his dream. It didn’t burn his fingers, but it was
crispy hot, and delicious.

“Eric!” his
mother, Martha, called out from his doorway. “Where did that bacon
come from?”

He looked up with a
wrinkled brow. “I don’t know. You mean you didn’t make it?”

“No, I did not,”
she said, sternly. “I didn’t give you permission to—” She
stopped herself, then said,
“Wait.” She shook her head with
her eyes closed and yawned. “I don’t remember buying bacon.”

Eric’s
four-year-old sister, Molly, appeared in the doorway with a frown of
deep confusion on her face. She spotted the bacon and immediately ran
and snatched a piece. “Yum!” she exclaimed.

By this time Eric’s
father, Frank, appeared over Martha’s shoulder and said, “Where’d
the bacon come from?” Then: “Wow, did you make that yourself,
son? Looks good.”

“I didn’t buy
bacon, Frank,” Martha said. “You must have.”

Frank looked at
Martha, nonplussed. “I...don’t buy bacon,” he said, as he
walked over and helped himself to a piece.

“I know you don’t,
but you must have,”
Martha said.

“I
didn’t. Swear to God.”

Martha’s
eyebrows raised and she shrugged her shoulders. “O...kay, guys,
whatever. Enjoy your
bacon.” She got herself a piece and went off.

“Eric,”
Frank said, “I didn’t buy that bacon. And I didn’t make that
bacon. And if I know your mother, and I think I do, I don’t think
she—”Just as Martha had, Frank
stopped himself, then said, “Maybe
your mom forgot it.”

“No,
no,” Eric said, “she’s just pretending that she didn’t make
it. Obviously she made
it.”

Molly
was silently standing in front of the plate and biting into her
second piece. Eric was on his third.

Frank, like everyone
else, was frowning in confusion and thought. “You must be right,
unless you’re the trickster. But it sure doesn’t sound like her.
Or you.”

The
breakfast table conversation was about who made the bacon. Everyone
but Martha maintained that she made it and was puzzlingly pretending
not to have done so, while Martha maintained that it
was Frank who
made it and who was
pretending. Molly wondered grumpily why she didn’t
get any bacon next to her bed,
but Martha said that she had eaten as much as anyone, so it was
perfectly fine.

*
* *

Eric,
an intelligent but otherwise (as far as he knew) perfectly ordinary
fifth-grader, went through his normal school-day routine. Last year,
he had asked to be allowed to come home instead of going to day care,
which Martha agreed to, saying that she wanted to come home early and
work from home anyway. She was a graphic designer. Besides, Frank was
often at home; he was a professor of astronomy at a research
university.

Today,
however, Eric found himself home alone, as he sometimes was for an
hour or two before his mother came home. His instructions were clear:
stay at home, do his homework, have a snack if he needed one.

Eric,
being a nice and diligent boy, usually did as he was told. That is
why, today, he was sitting down at his desk in his bedroom frowning
at his math book. “Ugh,” he said to himself, “I wish I didn’t
have to do this. I wish it were already done.” He opened the
textbook and then opened his binder to take out a clean sheet of
paper, when he noticed that the paper was full of writing. This was a
great surprise to him because, just a moment before, it had been
blank. He was about to put it back, thinking it was yesterday’s
homework, but he had just
turned in yesterday’s homework. Besides, this
had no markings on it. All of
his old homework had markings on it.
He
looked again: it was marked with today’s date.
He examined it carefully: he
couldn’t remember doing it at all, but this was today’s
assignment. Completed.

“Wow,”
he said to himself, remembering the bacon. He had just been
thinking
he wished it were
already done. And here it was, already done.

Eric
held out his hand palm up, and said experimentally—not particularly
expecting anything to happen—“I wish I had a pencil.”

A
pencil popped into his hand.

Now,
for a ten-year-old, Eric was not much of a dreamer. He didn’t
really go in for swords and sorcery or fairy tales. He was, in his
parents’ opinion, a geek who liked computers and machines. So while
you might think that he would shriek with delight, or grow round-eyed
with wonder, or maybe faint, that wasn’t Eric. Instead, he
instantly frowned violently, mouth agape, and whispered:

“What
the—”

Then
he said said: “I wish it were a cupcake.”

The
pencil became a cupcake, a
glorious, fancy, chocolate-frosted confection. Eric bit into the
cupcake, again experimentally, still frowning. Then his eyebrows went
up. It was very good indeed.

I
will not tell you everything that Eric popped into and out of
existence just then, because there were a great many things and Eric
had plenty of time. Whole cakes, a million dollars, a very expensive
telescope, a friendly cat, and a wolf were just a few of the things
that were popping into and out of existence in Eric’s bedroom.
While perhaps not a dreamer, Eric did have an excellent imagination.

Then
Eric had another idea: Could he levitate? That sounded potentially
dangerous, so at first he sat on his bed, then he levitated about a
foot off the bed.

That
was the moment that Eric heard Martha’s scream. She hung onto the
side of the doorway, staring at her floating son and looking quite
faint. Eric floated down and got to his feet and said, “Now don’t
freak out Mom, it’s OK, but—look at this!”

And
he held out his hand and into it popped another cupcake. Martha sat
heavily on the bed with her hand clutched to her head. You
might think that she would suspect Eric to have learned some very
effective magic trick. The problem was that she had seen.
She had seen Eric actually
levitating in the air, for several seconds. And had seen Eric’s
hand absolutely empty and then, in the next moment, absolutely full
of cupcake.

She
was close to panicking, because
she thought it likely she was going insane. Eric popped the cupcake
out of existence, which did not help, and he patted his mother’s
shoulder, saying, “It’s OK, Mom, really, don’t worry! It’s
OK!” and other words of reassurance for about an entire minute.
Martha was silent. Eric kept saying, “Do you want me to show you
again?” and Martha just shook her head.

Eventually,
Martha collected herself and managed a weak smile, and said, “How?”

“I
dunno,” said Eric.

“Am
I going crazy?”

“Absolutely
not, Mom. Unless I’m going crazy too, because I’m seeing the same
things! Look, you tell me what you want, and I’ll make it. Go
ahead!”

“OK,”
Martha said, nodding. “How about...how about a really big...ruby.
You know, the gemstone.”

“Sure!”
chirped Eric. “I know what a ruby is.” And he opened
his hand to reveal a
monstrous ruby,
surely, Martha thought,
the largest ruby that has
ever existed. She
was increasingly impressed
and excited. She took the
ruby.

“OK,
now a diamond.” Eric produced one and handed it to her.

“An
emerald?” Again, Eric handed her one. The three gemstones were
difficult to hold all at once in a single hand.

“But
I’ll tell you, Mom, I can fill a room full of those, so...” Eric
waved a hand, unnecessarily but theatrically, and the giant gemstones
disappeared.

“Aw,”
said Martha. “I liked those.” Then
she fainted.

*
* *

Eric was holding her hand and looking quite worried when Martha came around. He was repeating such things as, “It’s OK, really” and “you’re not crazy, Mom!” This didn’t help Martha very much, but she didn’t faint again. By the time she was fully recovered, she seemed to have accepted the situation and was “all business.”

“All
right, Eric,” she said, “let’s test you out a little more, OK?
Come with me.”

Martha
led her son to the living room. She pointed at a couch that was quite
old and ratty. “Give me a new couch, please,” she said.

First,
Eric waved his hand dramatically and the couch was instantly new
again. Martha wrinkled her nose at this. “No, it needs to be
something different. Not just
new again.”

“Like
what?” Eric said, waving his hand and changing the upholstery from
brown to blue. “This?”

“No...”
Martha looked thoughtful. Then she held out her hands. “Give me a
new tablet.”

One
appeared in her hands.

“Now
open it up to the browser.”

A
web browser opened itself
up.

They
searched the web for pictures of couches. She picked one out, made it
larger so Eric could see it well, and said, “That one.” A
fancy new sofa appeared in
the place of the blue one.
“Hmm, it’s kind of small.” It enlarged. “Yes, that’ll do
for now.”

Next,
they picked out new drapes, a stereo with large speakers, an
82” television, marble
countertops for the kitchen, and
other assorted odds and ends.
Finally, Eric created a
new sink. Martha tried it
out, only to hear a strange sound coming from underneath; water was
spilling onto the floor, because plumbing was missing. After some
yelling and mild cursing, Eric said, “No problem!” and cleaned up
the mess with a flick of his fingers. Martha showed him pictures of
what sink plumbing looks like, and he got it in right.

“How
on earth,” Martha said, “can you create a tablet and a television
and get a sink wrong?”

“Well,
I was only thinking about the sink. I wasn’t thinking about all the
pipes and stuff underneath,” Eric said.

“Yes,”
Martha replied, “but you don’t have to think about or know about
all sorts of things that go into the tablet or television.”

Eric
paused. “Well, but I was only thinking about the sink. I mean, that
is all I was thinking
about.”

“The
point, dear son,” Martha said, “is that you can get things
wrong.”

“Yeah.
Well,” Eric said, “Hey.
I’ll just, you know, wish I
won’t get
things wrong.” He nodded
his head. “There! Done!”

Martha
looked skeptical. “I’ll
bet you still can, though…” She stared into the distance for a
minute. “I know. Give me a new refrigerator.” Eric pointed at the
old refrigerator and a new one appeared. Martha looked inside.

“Uh-huh,
Martha said, “I thought so.”

“What?”

“There’s
no food.”

“Aw,”
Eric said, “here.” Assorted foodstuffs and drinks, roughly what
Eric remembered seeing there, appeared.

“Where’s the
yogurt?” Martha said. “We had yogurt.”

“Oh,”
Eric said.

“Yes.
You didn’t know what was in there. Can you give me back the old
refrigerator?”

“Sure,
I guess.” It was back with a wave of Eric’s hand. Martha opened
it up. The old food was there.

“Interesting,”
she said. Suddenly she looked very tired. She said, “I’m going to
take a nap.” Then she
turned around and looked very seriously at Eric, adding, “Don’t
do anything dangerous, don’t
tell anyone, don’t
go anywhere. Just give me some
time, OK? Do you hear me?”

“Yes,
Mom.”


Positivity and motivation

One thing that almost nobody knows about me is how much time I've spent on self-analysis of one sort or another. I'm deeply impressed by people who are more motivated and self-disciplined than I am, and I frequently try to get to the bottom of the many issues surrounding self-discipline.

Recently I've been toying with the notion that optimism is an important attitudinal key to high motivation. But the more I think about it, the more I think it is not optimism but positivity that matters. These are different. A rough gloss of "optimism" is "the habit of estimating the probability of future events turning out well." By contrast, I'd say "positivity" means "the habit of evaluating one's own achievements and situation, and those of other people, highly." Obviously, this is a vague thing. But if you "look on the bright side," you're positive; if you're depressive and regard your achievements as worthless and your situation as bleak, you're negative.

So, yes, I'm thinking that Norman Vincent Peale's Power of Positive Thinking was right all along. This is also consistent with the fact that cognitive therapy (which is all about replacing negative thoughts with positive ones) is so helpful.

I know people who say they are depressed who nevertheless do work hard. I'm not saying that positivity is perfectly correlated with motivation (or hard work). But as I look back on my own life, at the times that I worked the hardest, I was always at the time quite proud of my work or progress, and more or less satisfied with my circumstances. Was that because I happened to be working harder or producing more at the time? Actually, no. There were other times in my life when I also happened to work hard and get stuff done, but I was dissatisfied with my progress. No--I think I was, at those times, simply focused on the positive. That suggests a hypothesis.

I'll be 50 in a few weeks, and I have thought a great deal about this sort of thing, but I'm not sure I have ever entertained this precise hypothesis: When I am quite positive, i.e., when I dismiss self-criticism and instead take pride in my work (and my circumstances, i.e., "looking on the bright side" of whatever comes my way), then I do happen to be unusually well motivated and hard-working. Positivity causes high motivation. Dwelling on the bright side is a sufficient but not necessary condition for wanting to get stuff done.

It's not optimism about the future that matters most to motivation. It's positivity. Optimism means evaluating the probability of future desired events highly. But if you're in a blue funk, then even if you think it's very likely that you'll achieve x if you set out to do x, you'll be less likely to care about x, or be motivated by the prospect. But if you're quite positive, if you dwell long and hard on how wonderful it will be to achieve x, and you generally look on the bright side regardless, that can be enough to overcome a sober estimate that your chances of success are relatively low.

So I'm going to try this out. There's no great method to follow, however. What I'm describing here is an attitude, not an activity. If you're persuaded by what I've written, and want to try it out with me, then it seems to me what you need to do is reflect on everything in your life--your job, your relationships, your material circumstances, everything--and remind yourself of all of the most positive aspects of it all. Then keep those aspects in mind, and going forward, as you encounter new circumstances and talk with folks, make an effort to dwell on the most positive aspects. If you get a B and you wanted an A, reflect that it's not a C; that the course was difficult; that it is, after all, just one grade; etc. If you finish a piece of work you're proud of and nobody else seems to notice, don't let that stop you from taking pride in your work. And let your attitude come out. If you feel like saying to a coworker, "I really killed it," referring to your job, they'll probably support you if they're decent.

I'm not saying you should be conceited or narcissistic. Don't take other people down a peg just because you start getting more positive about yourself. I also think you should be positive with respect to other people, their qualities and their achievements. If someone says they finished something important, praise them. You might find someone's politics annoying, but don't let that stop you from liking or admiring him or her. Remind yourself that politics are just one not-very-important aspect of a person's life, and that your friend is, after all, very accomplished in this or that way, or funny, or pretty, or whatever their positive traits might be. This will make it easier for you to be more genuinely positive about yourself.

Let me know what you think in the comments.


Why do I get so much work done on airplanes?

Riding in planes ain't so bad. I wholeheartedly believe they're safer than cars--and this is the one actual advantage of having short legs. So I don't mind riding in planes. Maybe, I admit, I even look forward to it a little. But more important than that, I usually get quite a bit of work done on planes. It's surely the lack of distractions, right? No Internet, no family, no workmates, no phone calls, just me and my laptop (or book).

But perhaps there's more than just a lack of distractions that accounts for my productivity while aloft: maybe it's also a sense of agency or freedom. Nobody's about to tell me what to do, and I know it. I have a block of hours that I know I can dispose of in just the way I like. I might be crammed in a 31" (average legroom) by 16.5" (average width) box by rapacious airlines with razor-thin profit margins, but my ability to control my time is positively liberating.

Distraction and lack of agency are both rather puzzling. They seem to be wholly psychological. What, really, is the difference between me sitting at my workstation at home and doing some work and sitting with a laptop in a plane seat? There seems to be nothing more than an awareness that certain things are possible--that I might choose to do something that would (sadly) distract me, or that someone might ask me to do something or interrupt me. I personally lack the ability to turn off that awareness; I can't as it were put myself into airplane mode. But that inability is simply a decision I make. It's not a bad think that I make it. I don't want to be the sort of person who "gives zero f***s." But riding in an airplane cuts us off, temporarily. And that seems to be a good thing, sometimes, for me anyway.


Top 10 hidden gems of central Ohio

Today my family discovered yet another hidden gem, a spot we had never been to before, in central Ohio where we live. This inspired me to catalog our favorite "hidden gems."

Central Ohio has some excellent landmarks that a visitor would enjoy. The Columbus Zoo is world class; the Whetstone Park of Roses is stunning when in bloom; the riverfront, COSI, LeVeque Tower, and State House downtown are all well worth a visit; nearby German Village is a great spot to stroll; Ohio State is nice to visit, especially around the Oval, Library, and Mirror Lake; the Columbus Metropolitan Library downtown is one of the best public libraries in the country; Franklin Park Conservatory is a beautiful spot; the various metro parks make an excellent park system; you've probably heard of Ohio Caverns, which we love; and everybody has heard about the Hocking Hills. But if you live in the area, you probably know about those spots.

Here are some spots you might or might not have encountered yet, which we have visited several times (or plan to visit again) and which we love—from least hidden to most hidden.

10. Hoover Dam. This is the least "hidden" and perhaps it doesn't belong on the list, but I didn't know about it for a long time. This isn't an earthen dam like so many others in Ohio, it is a tall and wide concrete dam with a massive gushing spillway. You can walk all the way across the dam, as well as from the top of the dam to the marshy, blue heron-filled area at the bottom. At the observation area on the eastern side, last time we were there, there were a bunch of swallow nests. On both sides of the dam and on either side of Hoover Reservoir are places to walk, play, and picnic. Hoover Dam is just one of the nicest places in central Ohio.

9. Slate Run Living Historical Farm. Again, perhaps it's not so well hidden now. If you have little kids, and maybe even if you don't, this is a must-see. A well-maintained, apparently well-run farm following 19th century farming ways, Slate Run features an open farmhouse, a separate kitchen, gardens, root cellar, horse-plowed fields, a massive barn, and a big variety of farm animals, from chicken and other poultry to cows, sheep, horses, and pigs. Just a great way to learn about the old ways of farm life. We also enjoy the pond.

8. The Wilds. Again, many people know about this so perhaps it isn't very "hidden." But if you haven't visited, you might find it to be a surprise. The bus and other tours allow you leisure to take in the unusual, vast, hilly landscape as well as the big animals scattered over a 14 square miles in giant paddocks. The animals we saw when we have visited in the past included rhinos, giraffes, unusual deer and oxen, zebras, bison, a cheetah, and many others. Like a safari, but fairly close to home. Also worth a mention is that the drive to the Wilds is quite nice, especially if you go through the very scenic Blue Rock Forest.

7. Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve. Some of the Hocking Hills attractions, like Old Man's Cave and Cedar Falls, are unquestionably excellent and are far from "hidden." But one of our favorite spots is the less-visited but surprisingly awesome Conkles Hollow. The trail is very green and scenic, but flat and paved for most of the way, and thus excellent for small children. What awaits you at the end is stunning, resembling some landscapes I remember from the Grand Canyon or Zion National Park out west. The gorge is reputedly one of the deepest in Ohio and the end of it is a magical place.

6. Rising Park and Shallenberger State Nature Preserve. I put these together because they're both in the Lancaster area and they both feature similarly short, but steep hikes to the top of a hill, from which you get a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape. Rising Park is well-known (hardly a hidden gem) to the people of Lancaster, but worth a visit to those from outside the area. The main attraction is the gorgeous view overlooking the town of Lancaster, but there is also a scenic reservoir, an old house on the property, and plenty of places to wander. We visited Shallenberger in winter when the leaves didn't block the view. We had passed it many times on the way to the Hocking Hills, but spotted it on a map and decided to visit one day. Very nice little preserve, short and scenic but steep hike to the top of a hill that overlooks the surrounding country in all directions, although leaves might get in the way in the summer.

5. Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve. Now we come to some of the slightly more hidden spots. On the east side of Newark is this lovely area, a paved bike and hiking trail—a converted rail bed—next to the Licking River going through a very scenic gorge. Apparently, it was called "Blackhand" after Indian hand paintings on the cliff walls. There are some nice little waterfalls in the tributary dales along the trail, as well as some sandstone cliffs of the sort you'll find in the Hocking Hills. Old canal towpaths and locks are nearby. Also interesting is a notch or gap cut through a hillside, which is a little like a roofless tunnel.

4. Rockbridge State Nature Preserve. This is on the other side of 33 from the Hocking Hills, between Lancaster and Logan. The parking lot might take some finding, and the trails leading to the main attraction—a large natural bridge, or arch—take a bit of puzzling out. But Rockbridge itself is a stunning location, and the rugged hike to it is one of the nicer hikes central Ohio has to offer.

3. Tar Hollow State Park and Forest. One of the nicest areas just to take a drive would be Tar Hollow State Park and Forest, which we visited in the fall—highly recommended. Sweeping vistas. There's a pretty reservoir, Pine Lake, with swimming and paddleboats. In the middle of the forest is a giant fire tower that it is possible to climb, although it seemed somewhat rickety and lacking in railings for our two young boys, so we didn't attempt it. While there we were absolutely swarmed by ladybugs.

2. Rock Mill Park. This out-of-the way area is worth a bit of extra driving. The mill itself has been lovingly restored, with a giant mill wheel. To get to it, you walk across a particularly excellent example of an Ohio covered bridge—over a beautiful gorge—and if you proceed down a path from the mill, you'll come to one of the nicest waterfalls in the central Ohio area, which will strike you as a bit of the Hocking Hills, only a lot closer than you might have expected.

1. Wahkeena Nature Preserve. We first visited this preserve yesterday. We simply saw it on a map, read some intriguing descriptions, and decided to go. We're glad we did, because it's a very unusual, surprising place. Several things make it very special: beavers, a pine forest, wildflowers, an excellent free guide map, and an especially interesting nature center. There are two big beaver lodges at one edge of the pond. There are all sorts of little surprises. There is a floating boardwalk across one end of the pond, which takes you by one of three beaver dams. There are some stunningly tall pine trees you'll walk by on the very nice 1.5 mile circuit—a fragrant bit of landscape, reminds me of California and other western forests. Wildflowers are abundant, identified handily on the excellent guide map. A family of geese with brand new goslings, hatched earlier the same day (April 24), was swimming about. Frogs galore of course. Near the top of the hill are sandstone cliffs of the typical Hocking Hills variety. The guide map has numbers and letters which match numbers and letters posted along the well-maintained trail, with naturalist notes we enjoyed reading—I wish more parks would do this. A barred owl and a red-shouldered hawk are in a quiet area not far from the nature center, both injured, non-releasable, and cared for by preserve personnel. Unlike many nature centers, this one is hands-on and reading-light, but full of small stuffed Ohio mammals and birds of every description, many dozens of them, live turtles and snakes in aquariums, a fascinating indoor beehive and knowledgeable talkative staff members on hand. Absolutely perfect learning place for children.

Honorable mentions... The Wagnalls Memorial Library in Lithopolis is one of our favorite libraries, gorgeous old building, wonderful place to read. Pigeon Roost Farm is a great spot for fun, hay wagon rides, corn maze, etc., in the fall as a place to take little kids, although it's getting a little too popular so maybe doesn't qualify as a "hidden" gem. Yoctangee Park in Chillicothe has swans and beautiful trees—like Rising Park in Lancaster, not at all hidden to the residents of Chillicothe. Charles Alley Park on the south side of Lancaster has some very nice, scenic hikes in the hills above a reservoir. Close to home is one of our favorite places, maybe a "hidden gem" for some people not in the area: Chestnut Ridge Metro Park. Excellent hiking and views.

What have I missed? Please turn us on to other spots around that we have missed! Share in the comments!


The notorious co-founder of Wikipedia interviews the notorious co-founder of Genius


I am spending a few days with the energetic and charming young crew of Everipedia at their offices in sunny L.A. I got to know Everipedia through Mahbod Moghadam, the 30-something but youthful and “thug” (this, apparently, is a good thing) co-founder of Genius.com, whom I got to know last year when I was still working on Infobitt (which, alas, is still in mothballs). Mahbod is not the CEO but is certainly one of the leading lights of this approximately one-year-old company; he and the other guys are very friendly, easygoing, smart, and hard-working, as far as I can tell. Anyway, Mahbod likes to be interviewed, and he is a “character,” so I thought it would be fun to do that. After all, people have interviewed me a lot but I can’t remember ever interviewing anybody else. So the tables are turned! For this blog’s very first interview, here is Mr. Moghadam. This will be a fairly wide-ranging email interview, so here goes.


Everipedia is the project you’re now working on. What exactly is the vision, at present, behind Everipedia? What are you trying to achieve?
Everipedia is the baby of Sam Kazemian and Tedde Forselius — they are my sons. It is, in short, a better version of Wikipedia. There are lots of differences, but the biggest one is that you can make a page about ANYTHING. I’ve had a Wikipedia page written about me before — several times — and Wikipedia kept taking it down! It was heartbreaking, especially because it has always been my dream to have a Wikipedia page about me. I’m sure there are millions of people who feel this way. Sam showed me my Everipedia page when I was giving a talk at UCLA — I was over the moon! I went home and immediately started making pages for all of my friends, my friends’ companies…everything I think is cool! Adding pages on Everipedia is really easy — it’s like posting on Facebook. No complexities or weirdo markup language like Wikipedia.

You say you want Everipedia to be the encyclopedia of everything, covering not just the topics in Wikipedia, not just the topics snootily deemed not important enough to include, but topics far, far outside the mainstream of what is considered “encyclopedic.” Things like: Every person in the world (including me and you!). Every street in the U.S. All the products currently for sale. All the species in the world. Every chemical compound (!). Every gene (!!). Every episode of every lame TV show. Every website (!!!). Etc. First of all, are you frigging insane?
I think it’s insane to have a strict notability requirement! The cool thing about the Internet is there is so much bandwidth — everyone can have their piece. Even if you are a shitty photographer, you can have an Instagram. Even the WORST rappers annotate their lyrics on Rap Genius. (TRUST ME) So why shouldn’t everyone have a Wiki?

OK, setting aside issues about feasibility, maintainability, etc., there’s a more basic question: Why is it important to have an encyclopedia of everything? Aren’t you basically just trying to replicate the Internet, or what eventually will be on the Internet?
Yeeee! One of our nicknames for Everipedia is “Crowdsourced Google” — the same way that Google gives you information about any subject, we want Everipedia to give you the info, except humans are doing the sorting, summarizing and rating of the sources instead of a machine.

Right now the site actually reminds me no small amount of the early days of Wikipedia — same youthful enthusiasm, same friendly welcoming atmosphere, same lack of f’s given if someone starts work on a topic with a very lame article. But Wikipedia sort of grew up (not entirely) and became huge, with long, meaty articles. How are you going to “get from here to there” and avoid burnout or seeming irrelevant?
Hopefully we can steal a lot of users from Wikipedia! On Everipedia you get IQ for your contributions. Contributors get credit and recognition for their accomplishments, they are not simply working in a void. College students can be appointed “Everipedia Campus Representative” if they earn it, and celebrities can contribute via Verified Accounts. Wikipedia won’t even let Snoop Dogg contribute to his own page! That ain’t right…on Everipedia, Snoop can even cite himself as a source! Not to mention anyone can cite his Instagram posts, hit tweets…anything that has cool information.

Why should somebody work on Everipedia when they can work on Wikipedia and have a better chance of having their words read by people on the #7 website in the world?
Because on Everipedia you get rewarded for your work. On Wikipedia, you get no recognition, contributions are pretty much anonymous. Maybe that appeals to some people — but I know, personally, I would never want to spend time working on something without getting credit for it. I think I’m a very good writer, and I want to be recognized for my work. I’m sure there are a lot of talented writers who feel the same way I do!

You have sometimes called Everipedia the “Thug Wikipedia.” Come on, dude, isn’t “Thug Wikipedia” likely to be off-putting to people who are, you know, working on an encyclopedia? And what does this mean, anyway?
Haha, yeah, we should probably stop saying that. What I mean by “thug,” in this case, is that there aren’t a bunch of unnecessary rules. You might think rules are great, but look at the result. Wikipedia’s notability requirement results in systematic discrimination against women and minorities, which is truly shameful. The top-performing pages on Everipedia are often black actresses, like Mariah Lynn from “Love and Hip-hop,” who are massively popular but face “Wikipedia Discrimination.” Everipedia made a page for Sabrina Pasterski — known as the “Female Einstein.” Wikipedia scraped our article and didn’t cite us! So I think that symbolizes the different focus of Everipedia and Wikipedia. Maybe we should change “Thug Wikipedia” to “Feminist Wikipedia.”

You and your buddies started Genius, originally RapGenius, which is one of the coolest collaborative websites online. I put it up there with Wikipedia, Quora, and a very few others that feature open collaboration among equals in order to develop a resource that is of use to everyone. This is what I love, and you and I both agree people ought to make more of these sorts of sites. So what is your top advice for entrepreneurs or community organizers (so to speak) who want to organize other people to create awesome resources that are useful to everyone?
It is bizarre. Every wiki site blows up. Even WIKIFEET gets a ton of traffic. But nobody wants to make encyclopedias. Everybody wants to make “The Next Snapchat.” I think this is because making a social media app is sexier than making an encyclopedia. Also, if you succeed, it’s a lot less work. You don’t have to sit there and use your own product, add a bunch of cool pages, etc. But I don’t think it’s an accident that I am 2 for 2 on successful startups and both are encyclopedias. There is such a thirst for robust software to disseminate information. It is the future of media! And nobody is doing it…personally, I think Quora sucks, and even Quora is blowing up…

OK, I gotta ask. You’ve been asked this ad nauseam, I’m sure, and I’m sure you’re annoyed by it, but I gotta ask. (Remember, this question is coming from a guy who thinks we are falling in a moral abyss. I may be a libertarian but I am also a moralist.) In November 2014 you wrote an article ill-advisedly titled “How To Steal From Whole Foods.” First of all, WTF? What were you thinking of? You know that stealing is wrong, right?
The article was meant as a joke, the sole purpose was to make people laugh. The title is paying homage to Tao Lin’s classic tome “Shoplifting from American Apparel.” Lames like Mark Suster took my words literally, because they have the minds of sheep. A lot of people also told me they loved the article — those were the smart folks. I don’t steal, but personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with stealing. You certainly can’t compare it to murder or rape, not even close. Stealing food, especially, strikes me as a morally neutral activity.

Being around you and the other Everipedia guys have introduced several items of slang that are completely new to me, because I don’t watch TV, don’t spend any time around teenagers or college students, and work from home in an exurb of Columbus, Ohio. I’m a bit cloistered, to tell the truth, but that’s how I like it. You meanwhile are the man about town, living in L.A. and hip to the scene (which shows how unhip-to-the-scene I am, since kids these days do not use the phrase “hip to the scene”). So I require brief, Urban Dictionary-type but Mahbod-crafted definitions of the follow terms d’art of the thug life. I give you…

The Mahbod Moghadam Lexicon
thug (not in the brutal ruffian sense):
Did you know this comes from the Hindi word “Thugee”? I use it in homage to 2PAC — my favorite human who ever existed. (He had “Thug Life” tattooed on his chest). It is a synonym for “disrupt.”
pimp (not in the employer-of-whores sense): If you’re a pimp, that means you’re charismatic! You can get others to serve you..
janky: Means “sucks.”
yeeeee: One of my Persian friends got me saying “yeee”! It is a refreshing alternative to “yasssss!” which is very popular with Hillary Clinton supporters…
hooooo: Short for “HOOOOOLY SHIT!” — we say this a lot at Everipedia HQ because we are constantly amazed and bewildered by our own product! It is changing the world. It is our catchphrase.
blowin up: This is what Everipedia is presently doing! YEEEEE
ewoking: Ah, my favorite word! This means “contributing to the site” — it is derived from the username of the TOP-IQ EDITOR OF RAP GENIUS, Monsieur William Goodwin aka EwokABDevito. He is one of only 2 users who have a higher IQ than I do.
shhhhht: This is the companion of “HOOOOO!” (See above.)
bae: I use “bae” sarcastically — “bae” is a word the kids say these days, it means “baby”/”babe” — I think it sounds ridiculous, which means I’m getting old! So I imitate them.
jag: “Jagh” means “masturbate” in Persian, my native language. This is pretty much the only non-work activity we are allowed to do at Everipedia HQ. (We’re also allowed to go to the gym once a day.)
swag: This is my favorite word of all time. The eccentric rapper Lil B “The Based God” popularized it. It is a nonsense word, similar to Kurt Vonngut’s “Ho Hum”…it can mean whatever you want it to mean! It is the best word.
dope: Dope means good, like drugs.
chill: Currrrr! (Sorry I got cold for a second there!) Chill means you’re icy, which indicates a state of jewel-encrusted repose.

Now for a microaggression. Where are you from? No, where are you really from?
I’m from the Barrio vato! Barrios weyyyy! Pinche cavron! (I’m from the San Fernando Valley — Encino to be exact — via Iran.)

At this juncture I would like to inform our readers that you have a B.A. in History from Yale, a J.D. from Stanford Law, and were a Fulbright scholar. You also helped Genius to go viral. So, in short, you are clearly pretty goddamned brilliant. And yet if a reader reads your answers so far, these revelations might seem surprising. I hate to, you know, lift the curtain on the mystique (although I suspect that’s not really possible in your case), but can you comment on why, particularly at age 33 (you know — when your friends have become boring adults), you affect a “thug” attitude?
I loathe snobbery and propriety — I am against society. I was making wikis for Merrick Garland and his family today — he is a Jew trying to be a WASP, very “Ivy League” — he makes me want to throw up. I consider myself to be a UCLA alum, not a Yale alum. UCLA is where I will be donating my money, it is a school where they teach you actual knowledge, instead of propagating bullshit yuppie culture.

What are your favorite topics in history? The law?
My specialty in college was French colonial history! I am obsessed with all things French — I don’t know why — it is embarrassing! My favorite legal subject is tax, by far. I had an amazing professor for several tax courses, Joe Bankman — he is my Rabbi, basically. He taught me the most about ethics and the way the world works. I love him.

I noticed you play piano pretty well — I think I heard some Bach. Did you have lessons or what?
I am OBSESSED with Bach! That is what I am first and foremost — a Bach performer. His music is so intellectual, and yet so emotional! He is the greatest artist of all time. Hopefully Everipedia will get really big within a year or so and I can leave the company and return to my REAL full-time job — learning the complete keyboard works of Bach. I took lessons from age 15–17 with a lovable Persian guy named Arjang Rad, who is now a famous composer.

Last question, back to Everipedia: Given the choice of Everipedia and Wikipedia, or spending time in some other similar online knowledge-sharing pursuits (e.g., Quora, Medium, etc.), why should people check out and start writing for Everipedia today, in March 2016? Is it ready for people to get involved?
Everipedia will give you recognition. You get IQ, badges, and top users get equity in the company. This company will be worth billions of dollars someday — and it will not only belong to the founders and investors — it will belong to everyone who helps build it. We have already awarded equity to top users.


Fund me to make 50 educational videos for kids!

I have a Kickstarter project that will close in two days! Unless I get a bunch of pledges in that time, I won't raise the money. I haven't tried very hard (actually, almost not at all)—been busy with other things.

Some salient points:

• I’ve made 26 educational videos for kids in my spare time (put on YouTube).

• As a homeschooling dad, Ph.D. philosopher, and reader of vast quantities of children’s literature, I am the perfect person to write these videos. I like making them, too.

• My videos are popular with and praised by students, parents, and teachers.

• My videos each average 52 views per day, or 18,834 per year.

• My videos on high-demand topics average 92 views per day, or 33,580 per year, about 4 years after being uploaded.

• Working full time, I can make 2-3 of these educational videos per day.

• So I can make 500 educational videos in a year.

• I can limit myself to high-demand topics.

• This would work out to over 30 million views per year (on high-demand topics), 4 years after being uploaded. That’s a lot!

• The videos don’t get stale. The amount of traffic my videos get has been growing year over year.

• I am seeking funding just for myself to make these videos.

It would become a K-4 version of Khan Academy (which is mostly focused on high school and college level material).
The videos would supply background knowledge about everything needed to be a proficient reader.
The selling points:

• Massive traffic, based on years of clear, consistent data.

• Inexpensive: I make them quickly, by myself.

• High quality educational content.

This is a proven, massively beneficial project. What I really want is somebody to fund me to full-time until I get tired of making these things. In the meantime, funding 50 of these things would be grand, and I'll show yez what I can do.

I kept my "no social media during work" pledge just fine

As I wrote in my last blog post,

I’m pledging to abandon social media networks when I am at work, except for narrowly defined work purposes. And I’m asking you to hold me to it and slag me mercilessly if you catch me at it! And I’m inviting you to take the pledge, too!

Yep, so for one day at least—and for many more, I still intend—I didn't do any social media at work. I could have done some related to work, but I didn't have any I wanted to do, so I didn't.

I've had a tremendously productive day so far! (Among other things I promoted a plan to get people to write a bunch of one-fact bitts quickly; and I also started a list of our "beat writers," six listed so far, under the first question of our FAQ. Sorry, you may have to log in in order to see this.)

But, sadly, nobody, not even a single person, took this "No Social Media at Work" pledge. Oh, well! I'll continue myself, anyway!