The Toll

19 years ago today I was getting up and getting ready for school on a late summer morning in Maryland. Mom was making oatmeal and dad had already left to drive to Baltimore for work.

A friend called and told us to turn on the news. We did. I remember watching the second plane hit the tower and closely following the news of the attack at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. I remember the surge of anger and the sudden, sharp rise in fear and anxiety.

That day we lost 2,997 people.

19 years later, we are still holding memorials. We are remembering a time of coming together as a nation, of fear. A time of deep hurt for the country.

It was easy. We had The Other to blame. The attackers.

We rapidly pivoted to war. We’ve been fighting a never-ending war for over half of my life at a cost of some $2.4 trillion.


According to the Covid Tracking Project we lost 1,170 Americans yesterday in the US due to COVID-19.

At the time of this writing the US has lost 192,000 people. Write it out like a check: one hundred ninety-two thousand lives.

How do we memorialize these people? We memorialize them by sending kids to college to party. By going to churches and other large gatherings against scientific recommendation. By walking past signs in stores imploring people to wear masks, only to pull the mask down and sneer at other mask wearers.

This country is broken. We can’t come together and do the right thing for our marginalized communities of color. We can’t even properly wear a piece of cloth over our mouth and nose.

War is easy. Change is hard. We fund foreign wars and domestic police brutality, and meanwhile a thousand or more people are dying daily—often in our most vulnerable communities. Meanwhile, the rich get richer (by the way, we don’t need billionaires).

In the midst of this, both political parties refuse to address universal health care while one party actively works against the current healthcare protections.

What’s the point? The point is that the people lost on 9/11 matter. The point is that we are currently experiencing loss at an unprecedented rate for modern times—these hundreds of thousands of people also matter. For those of 9/11 we launched a 19 year war. For those of yesterday, we walk into a Walmart and pull our masks down after sneaking past a greeter.

Act like it matters. Do your part—wear masks, stay apart, wash your hands. Take care of each other in the midst of national and global loss. Be politically active. Educate your friends and families why progressive values matter to the least of those in our communities.


I don’t think I’ll ever forget the morning of 9/11. I also know that I’ll never forget this year. And I’ll never forget the vast disparity in how we’ve responded and the toll it’s had on the country.

Home sweet 192.168.1.1

We thoroughly enjoyed our excursion to the Gulf Coast even though we cut the trip short by one week to avoid the wind and rain expected from the twin tropical storms headed for the region.

After our week of relaxation, I went back to work for the remainder of our time at the beach. It was a great change of scenery for the month of August.

The quality of internet access is always a gamble when booking an extended stay — “Wi-Fi Access” in an AirBnB listing can mean vastly different things. Unfortunately, we had awful DSL coverage at the condo. Speeds ranged from 150 Kbps to 3.5 Mbps. The abysmal speeds and high packet loss made video calls, syncing Dropbox and accessing “modern” JavaScript-heavy websites a painful affair.

I was able to work, but it was difficult. I turned off Dropbox sync, held meetings without my video enabled, downloaded albums of music instead of streaming during the workday, restarted the DSL Wi-Fi box daily and generally exercised extreme patience.

Access to a high quality internet connection is critical in our modern digital age. In the midst of a pandemic when much of work and education is online, it’s now essential. Living and working remotely from Chattanooga, with gigabit municipal fiber connection from by EPB, our local utility company, is absolutely incredible.

While at the beach, I was able to make an unstable connection work. I knew I would be dealing with it for a limited time. However, across our nation and the globe, workers and families are facing bandwidth challenges. We need solutions. We need competition. We need more and more local municipalities doing the hard work that EPB has done—dare I say, treat internet access as a utility. We need a a national government that is actually engaged in fostering access to high quality internet.


EPB receives a lot of national press for being one of the first to move on municipal fiber. Fortunately, during this pandemic, they are offering reduced cost service to those who qualify. This is a great start.

Ephemera of Our Modern Dystopia: Groceries

Yesterday, I masked up and ventured out to get groceries after work. I stocked up last time I was out and have managed to wait just over two weeks. We needed more fresh food so it forced my hand.

I knew to expect shortages. I knew that some things we wanted might not be in stock, especially if looking for luxury goods such as toilet paper, Lysol, and Clorox. I wasn’t quite prepared for so many other areas of our local supermarkets to be decimated.

I’ve seen the news. I’ve seen the reports on Twitter. It all feels much more real to experience it in person, breathing through a stuffy mask.

Ephemera of Our Modern Dystopia: A Series

The world is singularly focused on the pandemic. COVID-19 is the primary topic covered by every news outlet. We’ve all been indoors for weeks, working from home if we can. I am not qualified to predict what may happen or to give medical advice (you can read that here). I just know that we must all stay home and should wear a home made mask when we leave the house for essentials.

In the midst of COVID-19, I can’t help but see everything happening around me in a strange new light. Things feel so much the same, yet so incredibly new, different—dystopian.

So, I will be publishing a series of short posts sharing thoughts, photos, and collected media. If you pay attention to what is happening in your community and online much of this will be mundane or repetitive.

I expect to look back in a year, ten years, twenty—and instantly relive the feelings evoked by these scattered bits of ephemera. I just want a record of these strange times. For me. For Finnegan.


I wore a mask in public. A mask that I laboriously sewed the day before. I’m not at the point where I plan to shave my beard so I sewed a mask that I thought would cover and be comfortable. It was just OK.

In these weird times, while wearing a mask to go to a medical appointment, I’m contemplating iterative improvements to a DIY face mask.


Me, in my face mask.

Between

There are moments in life where it feels like things are moving rapidly and glacially at the same time.

The summer between high school and college. The time between my engagement to Kaylin and our wedding. The time between college graduation and my first job. The (many times) between career changes. The times between moving from coast to coast.

I’m currently in the middle of one of these periods—a new shift in the paradigm of my life; the time between not being a father and being a father.

More than that, Kaylin and I are in a painful and magical moment right now. It’s been about a week since her father passed away after a decades-long battle with multiple sclerosis. In about a week from now our son will be born into this wild world.

In another bizarre moment between moments, we welcomed a brand new niece into the family hours after Kaylin’s father passed away.

This week, this month, is built of compounding moments in the middle of other moments. Time is moving so quickly and so slowly. Waves of grief and sadness are replaced with hope and excitement. Death is balanced by new life. Loss and gain are counterbalanced within hours, weeks.

We’re healing. We’re planning. We’re relaxing, because this last week of pregnancy is difficult.

Soon, we’ll get to meet our son. I know the moments between moments will only shorten and lengthen in their own unique ways.

The start of this decade has been painful. And joyful. We don’t know what is in store in an hour, a week, a month or a year from now. But it’s sure to be filled with new experiences—here’s hoping that the joyful moments outshine the moments that devastate us.

I am made of bread.

Not literally, of course—unless you count my love of a good sandwich against me.

For the past year, I’ve dabbled with making sourdough bread. I’ve had very limited success until this month. My mom and I both love cooking and baking and have partnered up in this pursuit over the course of the year, fostering a new obsession.

We’ve had endless conversations about starter, bake schedules and flour—but the specifics of our bread making exploits are best suited for another post.

While baking my first successful sourdough loaf, I was reflecting on bread and its place in my life.

The successful sourdough loaf!

Some of my earliest sense memories are in a kitchen—and of bread. I can hear the distinct sound of dough being kneaded in the plastic bowl of a countertop mixer, a strange thwapping of dough synchronized with the groaning of an electric motor. The smell of dough, yeasty and rich, being baked and then cooled on the counter; that was the smell of my childhood.

This isn’t the reflection of a digital professional seeking analog creative outlets in the kitchen or the workshop (although admittedly I do both). This is a realization of why bread, and the process of making bread, define who I am today.

My sister and I are both creative souls. My mom has a constant refrain that she’s “not creative” and that she doesn’t understand how she fostered our creative traits. However, as I think about her tireless pursuit of bread baking through my entire life, it becomes clear.

There’s been much written about the intersection of obsession and creativity. In the areas where I feel most creative I know that it is often fueled by obsession. And to me it’s clear—my mom is obsessed with bread.

When I was young she got involved in a small business designed to educate public school students about bread making. She would literally box up flour, yeast, water, honey, salt, mixing bowls, stir sticks, and metal baking tins, load the minivan and head out and teach a hundred kids in a cafeteria how to mix and knead dough—and send them all home with a loaf to bake at the end of the day.

This business meant that sometimes family time was spent refilling the flour mill as it ran in the garage, converting a five gallon bucket of wheat berries into flour one scoop at a time. Other times it was spent clipping apart 3-packs of Fleischmann’s yeast and sorting them into bread making kits.

Through this bread focused business, through raising two kids, through all other things that mom, dad, and my sister and I did, the smell of fresh bread was an ever-present refrain.

Wheat bread. “Healthy” whole grain bread. Soft, fluffy oatmeal bread. Dinner rolls. Sticky buns. The occasional pizza dough or breadstick. We were never lacking for the fresh crusty stuff at home.

My mom’s obsession with bread, and its expression of love and service to our family, friends and community, have shaped me in important ways.

Being creative is a tiring, sometimes thankless job. Other times it’s delicious, fulfilling and beautiful. Creativity can be finicky, the ingredients may not always come together into something viable. Sometimes, it’s more of a dark art (sourdough) rather than a refined science (yeast). But in the end, it’s something that is deeply fulfilling to those that understand.

So yes, I am made of bread. And I learned it all from my mom.