Rain and sunshine

Dublin is completely lovely, as always. Much as I adore both New York and Paris, this town is suffused with a casual and cozy charm that is pretty much lacking in both of those cities.

Today the rain here played hide and seek with the clouds, starting and stopping throughout the afternoon in short bursts of periodic enthusiasm, but always gentle and never a real bother for pedestrians.

I had one fascinating weather experience today that I have never had in New York City, one that I expect is familiar to Dubliners. I was able to stand in the gentle rain, even as the warm sunlight shone brightly down upon my face.

I love how the weather in Dublin is able to seamlessly intermingle the dark moodiness of a rainy day with the optimistic warmth of a sunny afternoon. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good way of describing what I like about the people here.

The memory of places

This evening in Manhattan I stopped into a cafe with a friend from out of town, for a drink and some conversation. I had chosen this particular cafe because of fond memories of my past visits there.

At some point in the evening I found myself thinking back to my past visits to this same establishment. One by one memories started to tumble into my consciousness of other times, other friends, stretching back many years. People came to mind whom I had not thought of for a very long time.

If you’ve been living in a city for a while, it becomes a kind of memory map. There is the living city of today, of course. But there is also another, a kind of ghost city, superimposed on every location.

One location may hold the memory of where you had that terrible romantic breakup. Another might conjure the whispered essence of that long lost friend you wish you’d stayed in touch with.

Somewhere deep in the recesses of your mind is your complete memory of places. These memories can come out and haunt you at the oddest moments. You wouldn’t want it any other way.

The emerging mobile class

“Self-driving cars” is a phrase that sort of misses the point. The future we are actually discussing is one of a single cooperative system of mobile units that will always remain in tightly coupled communication with each other.

Topologically, this system will resemble a packet-switching computer network more than a collection of individual vehicles. The result will be a sort of highly granular public transportation service, rather unlike what we now think of when we think of “cars”.

When you get into one of these mobile units you won’t need to drive, which means you will be free to do other things, much the way you are now free to do other things when you ride the train. The difference will be that you will have privacy, and that is a big difference.

The entire idea of a commute will become transformed. While on the road you will be able to spend time with friends and family, or simply enjoy some alone time, without the distraction of “eyes on the road”.

Much of what we currently think of as quality time will be spent in these future mobile units. The very concepts of work, play, dining, education, entertainment and more will merge with the concept of getting from one place to another. Entire new industries will arise to cater to the emerging mobile class.

I can’t predict with any real clarity what those new industries will be. But I’m fascinated to find out.

The Arpaio principle

If I understand correctly, the principle followed by Sheriff Arpaio went something like this: Illegal aliens are a problem. Many illegal aliens look Hispanic. Therefore, if you see somebody who looks Hispanic, it is legitimate to throw them in prison as a suspected illegal immigrant and torment them there.

But from there it gets even more interesting. After the Trump Justice department rules that your policy is actually criminal and convicts you of discrimination against Hispanic Americans, Trump himself pardons you and calls you a patriot.

I’m trying to wrap my head around this, and look for a general principle. As I understand it, you can apply the Arpaio principle in various ways. For example: The Mafia is a problem. Many Mafiosi look Italian. Therefore, if you see somebody who looks Italian, it is legitimate to throw them in prison as a suspected Mafioso and torment them there. Then, after you are convicted of discrimination against Italian Americans, Trump will pardon you and call you a patriot.

Once you understand the principle, you realize it can apply to many situations. For example: Nazi genocide was a problem. Donald Trump is of German ancestry. Therefore, it is legitimate to throw Donald Trump in prison as a suspected murderous Nazi and torment him there. Then, after you are convicted of discrimination against German Americans, Trump will pardon you and call you a patriot.

But this is the part that confuses me. If you’ve already safely locked Donald Trump away in prison, because (according the the Arpaio principle) he might as well be a convicted Nazi murderer, then how can he pardon you?

Is this what Donald Trump meant when he explained that he could pardon anyone, even himself?


Today on a road trip from New York to Rhode Island we passed a store that makes and sells signs. Not surprisingly, the sign outside in front of the store was totally awesome. It makes sense, I said to my traveling companion, that a sign store would have a truly great sign out front.

And that got me thinking about eponymous things — things with a name that points back to the thing itself, in some intrinsic way. For example, an orange is named for its color (even if we need to dye it to make it true). A fly is named for the fact that it can fly.

For some reason, the words “giant” and “dwarf” don’t seem as elegant to me, but I’m not really sure why I think that. Maybe, like the word “smell” to describe an odor, they are too on the nose.

Is there perhaps some other quality that makes certain self-referential words, like “fly” or “orange”, seem amusing, but not other words, like “giant” or “dwarf”? I am open to suggestions.


In principle, the Earth is a giant flywheel. In particular, there is an immense amount of stored energy in its angular momentum as it rotates about its own axis.

Theoretically it might be possible to tap into that energy, through some mechanism as yet uninvented. One intriguing aspect of such a mechanism is that it could be used anywhere, at any time. A motor powered by the rotation of the Earth could remain completely mobile and untethered, never needing to be recharged.

Of course, the moment you start tapping into its angular momentum, the Earth will start to spin more slowly. At first this slowing would be imperceptible, but eventually its effect on global climate would become catastrophic to life, both human and otherwise.

Therefore, to be an ecologically responsible species, we would need to continually “recharge” our planet by restoring its angular momentum. One way to do this would be via solar energy. We would need to devise some mechanism to translate heat from the Sun into a slow but steady “push” to keep the Earth spinning at the same rate about its axis.

In effect, such an energy ecosystem would be a form of solar energy, drawing on the Sun’s nuclear fusion energy, while using the rotation of the Earth as a form of temporary storage, in the form of a giant flywheel.

I’m not saying that this would be a good idea… 😉


One of the beautiful things about humanity is the way, from time to time, we are able to come together, despite our differences. You might have particular spiritual or political beliefs, whereas and I might have very different beliefs. Yet when it comes to certain concepts, our minds can still meet.

For example, at any given moment in history, there are certain sentences whose meanings are universally understood. And it really doesn’t matter where you encounter them.

Perhaps you overhear one of these sentences spoken over the water cooler at the office, or you see it emblazoned on a T-shirt during your morning commute on the train. No matter, you instantly know the topic at hand.

One such sentence, at the moment, is “Maybe he’s just an idiot.” Some people may agree with this sentence, others may argue against it. Yet absolutely everyone knows, without needing to be told, exactly who and what is being discussed.

I love that people have the ability, under the right circumstances, to achieve this sort of collective convergence. It is indeed one of the beautiful things about humanity.

Prototyping VR theater

A group of us at NYU are working on a theater piece that will take place entirely in shared virtual reality. Everyone will be physically in the same room — actors and audience alike — and everyone will see each other in their actual location within that room, but everyone will experience the theatrical work from within a VR headset, and all participants will appear to each other as avatars in a fantastical world.

It’s an interesting creative space, because there are two opposing forces at work. On the one hand, we can embrace the corporeal, since we really are there together, and we can talk to each other and touch each other just as we always do when physically together.

On the other hand, there are few limits on what we can see. In fact, participants can be seeing different things, in a way that would not be possible in traditional theater. For example, an actor might look like an angel to one audience member, and like the Devil to everyone else.

We are discovering that you can’t figure out what works in this space just by trying to reason it out. We pretty much need to dive into the shared virtual world together, and do all our prototyping there. And that’s kind of cool.