• Category Archives Tuesday Time-Waster
  • Tuesday Time-Waster: P.O. Box 1142

    I might have a lifelong fascination with WWII, but that fascination always seems to reveal how much I DON’T know. For instance, a Virginia park just outside Washington D.C. was actually a top secret place codenamed P.O. Box 1142, and it’s where Nazi POWs were interrogated — by Jews.

    P.O. Box 1142 was the American government’s first foray into interrogation, and they kind of learned as they went along. And then, when the war ended, the place shut down and became Fort Hunt Park. Those who worked there had been sworn to secrecy by the U.S. government, and they only consented to interviews after the National Park Service, seeking to preserve history, got the military to send them written releases.

    I learned about this place while listening to a “This American Life” podcast (“Act 2″ of that one). I naturally turned to the Internet for more information. The podcast site has this blog post with old documents and photos. And NPR’s “All Things Considered” previously did a feature on the place.

    I’ve wanted to return to Washington D.C. for years, and now I have yet another site to add to my list. History is so fascinating.

  • Tuesday Time-Waster: I wrote about music

    Yes, this is self-promotion. And it’s shameless. I have TWO articles published this week at Riff Magazine, an online venture started by a friend/former colleague.

    Today’s just-published article is located here, where you can read about the upcoming Treasure Island Music Festival. It was fun to interview head honchos at the companies that started the event a decade ago.

    And yesterday’s piece was a concert review of Gwen Stefani’s show last Saturday. Confession: It was my first-ever concert review. For someone who wrote mostly hard/breaking news for 10 years, this was a new adventure. Sure, I also wrote plenty of GA (“general assignment” in journalism jargon) articles, and breaking news stories (i.e., car wrecks, fires, homicides) were often followed up with profile stories. However, my stuff was always “news” rather than in the “features” or “lifestyle” sections. I was admittedly nervous, but this No Doubt fan couldn’t say no. And it turned out that I loved being on deadline again. Who knew?!

  • Tuesday Time-Waster: Ana the spy

    I recently came across the story of Ana Montes, a U.S. government analyst who also spent 17 years spying for Cuba. I’d never heard of her, but a random CNN article caught my attention and then sent me to Google for more information. This 2013 Washington Post article by Jim Pompkin is a great read and has fascinating information if you have any interest in this kind of thing.

    Interestingly, Montes escaped a lot of publicity because she was arrested 10 days after 9/11. Dozens of federal investigators had been building a case against her for several years, but 9/11 suddenly changed everything: She was given a bigger role with security clearance regarding the U.S. response to 9/11, and investigators couldn’t risk having her give THAT information to Cuba. And so, while everyone was still reeling from 9/11, a spy was arrested. She could have face the death penalty, but she plea bargained to a 25-year prison sentence and thus avoided a trial.

    The man who first suspected Montes wrote a book about it, and I’m tempted to buy it. Reviews are good but it sounds like a lot of the intriguing details were left out (not surprising; since it was written by a former government employee, he’d have to get it cleared by them for publication). Speaking of true spy books, though, I thought “The Spy’s Son,” was fascinating and well-written — that one was about CIA employee Jim Nicholson who dragged his son into his saga.


  • Tuesday Time-Waster: Pink’s musical genetics

    My musical tastes are pretty diverse — as in, “from Metallica to Yanni” levels of diversty. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I also really like Pink (or P!nk). I love her voice, I love the melodies, her lyrics mean something, and she’s also a phenomenal athlete.

    In 2006, the song “I Have Seen the Rain” appeared on an album of hers, and it turned out to have been the work of her father, a Vietnam War veteran who wrote the song while he was serving overseas. Pink has been through a lot of tough stuff in her life, and the song made me admire her even more. This is a good article, written in 2006, and here is a duet of Pink of her father performing that song:

  • Tuesday Time-Waster: A bike ride

    “But it’s not about the bike. It’s about getting out of your routine, and that could look like anything.”

    While feeling a bit blue last night, I opened another browser tab and scrolled through Facebook. I usually move past videos unless they actually feature my friends and/or they’re about 17 seconds long. But something about this one made me stop. Maybe it was the mention of Oregon, a state I love. Maybe it was the bike, which I’ve been longing to ride outside. But maybe the main reason I stopped is that it was posted by Cindy, whom I admire and who sometimes pops into my head when I’m least expecting it.

    At any rate, I stopped scrolling and instead clicked the volume button on the video. Four minutes and 14 seconds later, the video was done and I was left sitting there, unaware that it had far exceeded my normal mental video capacity. And so I’m sharing it, because we all need these reminders to nudge our subconscious — until we do something about them.

    “I want to be aware of every day I’m alive.”

  • Tuesday Time-Waster: “It’s going to be okay”

    I haven’t been inspired to post lately, and I even broke my nine-month streak of blogging at least once a week. But a thoughtful “comic” from The Oatmeal resonated in many ways. I put “comic” in quotation marks because it’s not actually comedy. It’s a tribute to a hero who’s not even really known for his heroism, and a reminder that we’re all a little better if we help rather than hinder.

    Go read it.

  • Tuesday Time-Waster: A guy who lives in a truck

    So, this 23-year-old guy works at Google and lives in a truck in the parking lot. Because Google is a ridiculous company like so many in the over-priced Bay Area, their employees get three free meals a day at work. They also have gyms and showers and laundry and bikes and all sorts of things that ordinary people have to buy (musical instruments, games, etc).

    I can’t blame this guy (who’s been getting a ton of publicity). Instead of paying rent, he’s going to pay off all $22,000 of his student loans in just 10 months. AND he doesn’t have to deal with traffic, which is a big perk all on its own. Plus, he doesn’t have chores like scrubbing a shower and vacuuming.

    But he’s also giving up some things. He can’t kick back on his couch with a book and a summer evening breeze drifting in the windows. And, as he put it: “I will most certainly be “That Guy”. No amount of planning or forethought excuses the fact that I’m the psychopath living in a van in the parking lot.”

    Would you do it? I don’t think I could, because I really like windows and space. But I admit I did briefly ponder the idea of putting my stuff in storage and living in my work parking lot, which is one mile from the gym (showers are required). Either way, it’s fascinating — partly because he’s a solid writer and seems to have enough common sense. Bonus: You can actually start at the beginning of his blog via this link, which I would love as a feature on more blogs)

  • Tuesday Time-Waster: Caitlin Smith’s running reward

    I’ve followed runner Caitlin Smith’s blog for years, watching as she’s had ups and downs on the local trails I know, and on both the local and bigger racing circuit. She doesn’t post often, so it’s always refreshing to see her name pop up in my blog feed.

    This time, she did well. Moreover, she appreciated it. I especially liked this line: “In life and running nothing is linear, but the chaos is well worth the moments like these.” Today, my marathon PR is two years old. Sometimes I think my fastest times are behind me, but then I read something like this and it makes me want to keep pushing through the chaos.