When I was at university, I decided I wanted a mobile device. The iPhone and other touchscreen handhelds had not been invented yet, but I imported a Japanese device called the Sharp Zaurus.Continue reading “Following Instructions”
At the grocery store near my house, it seems like half the parking spots are reserved for special groups. This is a gross exaggeration (do you expect anything less from me?), but it feels like it’s true when trying to find a spot on a busy evening.Continue reading “Veteran Reserved Parking”
When I was a kid, I remember reading a book about Antarctic explorers. These intrepid explorers lived and sometimes died in a frozen wasteland. I was reading this book over the Summer, and I remember feeling acutely the cognitive dissonance between a sweltering, humid summer and the descriptions of the dry, cold land I was reading about.Continue reading “Easter 2020”
In June of 2010, Armando Galarraga was literally one out away from pitching a perfect game for the Detroit Tigers. A perfect game is a big deal; still one of the most amazing feats in professional baseball. Umpire Jim Joyce blew what should have been the final call of the game, calling a runner safe that the replay later showed was an out.Continue reading “The Blown Call”
It’s so easy to kill a human being.
Flash, bang, little moan, meaty thud.
Seven billion creatures on this planet.
One less? Who cares.
People come to me with their problems.
I play the game, I deliver the goods.
Day ends, I go home to a loving wife
Lying dead on the floor.
Too many holes in her head.
It’s too easy to kill a human being.
Seven billion people on this planet.
Sometimes the game you play
Ends up playing you.
One less. Who cares?
After moving to New Zealand, I decided it would be convenient if I had a car. So I started looking around on TradeMe, the New Zealand version of eBay. While I was looking, I found a 2000 Alfa Romeo Spider that was totally sweet. And the auction ended in like 20 minutes! And it seemed underpriced — it’s hard to find proper values for older cars, especially rarer ones, but based on what I saw it should be going for a few thousand more. There were no bids, and the reserve had not been met.Continue reading “The Accidental Car”
Several years ago the company I was working for at the time spun up a new “startup-like” project. This new project had a code name which is not important to the story; let’s call it Project Bob.Continue reading “The Rumor Heard Around the World”
Continue reading “Pain”
Grief is a most peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it.Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha
7 August, 378Continue reading “Before Adrianople”
During a summer break when I was home from college, I went with my parents to their church. While on our way back home, we pulled up to a line of cars at a stoplight. Two cars ahead, there was an SUV with its fuel door open and the gas cap just hanging there.
Nothing irrevocably catastrophic will happen if you drive around with the gas cap open, but it’s not a great idea for a number of reasons (your check engine light might come on; the loop holding the cap in place could break and you could lose the cap; you could get some random crud in your gas tank; etc.). I was sitting there wondering how best to signal this state of events to the owners of the SUV, when something happened I will never forget.
A young lady got out of the car in front of us, walked up to the SUV, closed the gas cap, shut the fuel door, and then ran back to her car.
I have a habit of making things really complicated. What if the light changed while she was out of the car? What if the people in the SUV freaked out and did something unfortunate? What if someone in the next lane over hit her with their car? There are so many ways that situation could have gone poorly. And for what? To just close the fuel filler cap on a stranger’s car?
But the reason I will never forget this incident is that she did something. She did not allow herself to be paralyzed by any of the above considerations. And she took action — at some personal risk — to make the world just a little bit nicer for one person. Sometimes I wonder if they even realized. Or what they thought. Perhaps, hearkening back to the CD Binder story, the car’s occupants were terrified that a possibly unhinged motorist was running toward their car. Maybe there’s a version of this story out there with the girl as a villain.
I will say that her actions resonate with me. I want to be a doer. I’m not saying it’s always the right answer or that those who disagree are wrong.
I would make a tag for “Nathan mulls moral quandaries using banal scenarios as thought experiments”, but I think that’s too long for WordPress.
(This story is becoming less and less relevant, as the last two cars I’ve owned have both had electronic fuel filler latches rather than a traditional gas cap. Between this and electric cars, I was going to muse about a hypothetical future where readers wonder what exactly a gas cap is. But then I realized it was an exercise in hubris to assume that this blog would be relevant — or even around — long enough for this to be an issue. If you are reading this in the far-flung future and have no idea what a gas cap is: Google it.)