9 From Greg Knauss’ “An Entirely Other Day”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging

Greg Knauss wrote “An Entirely Other Day” sporadically from 1994 to 2006 (with five year or so gap between 2001 and 2006 and who knows, he may start up again). It’s experiential blogging at its finest, with some sharp observations–some introspective–of work, marriage, children, illness, aging, and death.

Experiential Blogging

from Art, Schmart comes a engineer’s vision of hell: a cocktail party at an art gallery. The phrase “pulped animal spread” is memorable. And wouldn’t the walls of hell be covered by pictures of lawyers? Maybe some marketeers as well.

Hip people mingle around and munch on some sort of pulped animal spread on some sort of multi-grain cracker. There’s generic jazz fusion playing. And the walls are covered with pictures of lawyers.

from At Play in the Fields of the Lawyers I guess they didn’t ask him “Which side do you wear it on?”

We had spent a good week scampering around to every tux shop within a twenty mile radius of our house trying to find something that fit me. As delicate as these salesmen are, you think they could come up with a better euphemism than “barrel-chested.” And, dammit, if another guy with a tape measure around his neck gives me the once over and says, “There’s plenty of room in the crotch, but the seat’s a little tight,” I’m going to throttle him.

from There Goes Your Tip is a description of another problem for the aging male: excess dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

So I’m at the barber shop, perched awkwardly in a red leatherette chair, with little bits of hair crawling down the back of my neck. As the barber finishes up the sides, she asks me to skootch down a little so she can reach the top of my head.

“Oh, this will go much faster,” she says. “It’s a lot thinner up here.”

From I made someone disappear yesterday comes a meditation on sudden loss and the evanescence of life.

I made someone disappear yesterday.

Late last week, my father-in-law’s girlfriend died suddenly. Heart attack. One day she was there, the next day she wasn’t — blam. I went to the funeral, but that was the first time I had ever seen her, lying in her casket.

Yesterday, I helped clean out her apartment. It was a small place, a studio, and the work mostly involved stuffing things into plastic bags for Goodwill to come pick up. Shoes: bag. Clothes: bag. Bedding: bag. Books, knickknacks, art: bag. Every material possession she had: bag, bag, bag. In two hours, it was all gone. Wiped clean. Erased.

There were little things all around — a mug that said “My Next Husband Will Be Normal,” an ab workout tape, a styrofoam box of leftovers in the fridge — that whispered the same lie that each of us tell ourselves every day: Of course I’m going to be here tomorrow. Of course. I’ve got plans. Where would I go?

From Man, Do I Miss Those Days a vision of giving over completely to the task at hand. Now days I can’t make it much past 4am: I find I have been sleeping sitting up, or I try and hit a number of keys at once with my forehead and wake myself back up, or I’ve been sleeptyping several hundred keystrokes (hold down to repeat) of the same character). I get the sense that Greg was lucid and entirely immersed in his task until something, either the cold or hydraulic pressure, took him out of flow.

Once, years ago, I had a morning deadline, a lot of code to write and a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew. Around 4am, I realized that the window was still open and I was freezing, I hadn’t gone to the bathroom is something like fifteen hours and I was having trouble hitting the keys because my hands were trembling.

Man, do I miss those days.

From Things Fall Apart points out obliquely how we spend most of our time denying our mortality. I think for engineers the hope is to transcend through our work (as he outlined in Man, Do I Miss Those Days), and in startups in particular we feel that we can break any rules that we want to. But ultimately, nature cannot be fooled.

Plans, friendships, schedules, jobs, lives, loves, bodies — things fall apart.

Joanne’s dad moved out of the ICU today and into a rehab facility, still paralyzed from the neck down and still without a real diagnosis. He woke up one morning four weeks ago and by noon he couldn’t move. The doctors have no idea why. Transverse myelitis — more of a generic catchall than a disease — is what they’re calling it, but that’s only because they’re out of ideas. “Sometimes these things happen,” one of his doctors told me, matter-of-fact.

from I Remember Bachelorhood If he substituted diapers for the beer he could be a family man.

The guy in line in front of me at Costco has two things in his cart: a case of beer and a pre-cooked chicken.

I remember bachelorhood.

from Because Life Loves a Challenge

“Well, at least now things can’t get any worse”
is the most dangerous sentence in the English language.
Because Life loves a challenge.

From How We Influence Our Children a parental epiphany “so that’s how other people see me.”

I walked outside to get something from the van this morning, and across the street was a neighbor, out for a walk with his toddler. I smiled and waved and noticed that they were dressed the same, his boy and him — they were wearing shorts and t-shirts and both had baseball caps on.

And I thought about how we influence our children, how they’re tiny mirrors of everything we are, consciously or not. How we dress them and teach them and show them the world will influence how they live the rest of their lives.

And I turned around to head back inside and Tom was standing in the doorway, wearing a ski cap, waving my lightsaber TV clicker and without his pants.

Which pretty much confirmed my theory.

All in all it’s worth reading for the insights of someone who makes his living as a software engineer observing the vicissitudes of life. It’s not really about work, but more catching yourself in the act of having an epiphany. It would actually make a nice book since there are so few outbound links (and almost all to other pieces/posts that he wrote).

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Comments (4)

  • Terry Frazier

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    It would actually make a nice book since there are so few outbound links (and almost all to other pieces/posts that he wrote).

    Interesting idea. I know someone that does that specializes in the whole book/blog/blend area. I’ll see if I can get him energized enough to have a look at Knauss.

    – twf

    Reply

  • Sean Murphy

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    I think the “experiential bloggers” or “journal writers” may prove easier to publish, or at least easier to translate back into a hardcopy book than writers who are more link happy.

    Just a thought.

    You might be able to publish a LiveJournal “writer’s colony” where they wrote in a private space but cross-referenced each other’s entries. Interesting to consider how that would evolve in contrast to a book developed asa wiki (in a private wiki, not all of these huge public efforts to recreate the stone soup magic of the Wikipedia).

    Reply

  • SKMurphy, Inc. Labor Day 2014: Knowledge Work Productivity

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    […] Greg Knauss wrote about a flow state in Man, Do I Miss Those Days a vision of giving himself over completely to the task at hand. I can related and used to be able to work all night but now I can’t make it much past 4am: I find I have been sleeping sitting up, or I hit a number of keys at once with my forehead and wake myself back up, or I’ve been typing the same character several hundred times in my sleep by holding down one key. I get the sense that Greg was lucid and entirely immersed in his task until something, either the cold or hydraulic pressure, took him out of flow. […]

    Reply

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