Travel Razors

In May 2002, I was driving to Charlotte to visit Matt – he lived there from April-July of that year.  It sucked, and we rarely speak of that dark, dark time.

I mean, nothing sinister happened, except that the day I met him there to help him move, a guy at my office had gotten fired for sending out a harassing e mail about me.  Like I said, dark time.  Let’s let that be it.

Anyway, I was en route to Charlotte, and I ended up getting an NPR station on the radio – I tuned in while this guy was talking about being born into an Italian family, and how he was darker skinned than any of his brothers, and his family attributed that to his Sicilian heritage.  Meanwhile, they flashback to his mother, who in High School worked with a group of classmates on helping integrate, and she fell in love with a black student on her committee.  So, she, a nice Italian girl, is dating both her long-standing Italian boyfriend, and the other guy, and she becomes pregnant.  She breaks it off with black guy, but… as it turns out, he was the father.  But the Italian family doesn’t know about him, so for years, they assume that this kid just got the Sicilian genes.  The kid buys into it for years – even though, in school, his black playmates question him about how he has two white parents.

Finally one night, when he’s in college, he gets drunk and confronts his mother in a phone call, and she admits, yeah, your Dad is a black dude I dated in High School – she’s divorced from the Italian “father” now – so that statute of limitations is long played out.

And the guy feels this enormous sense of relief.

Obviously, I’m not telling the story that well.

But I was hooked on what I was listening to.

Turns out, what I was listening to was This American Life.

If you’re an NPR junkie like me, then you have heard of this gem.  If not, look up  and pick any episode that looks interesting.  I’ve never heard one that sucks, though the one about prisoners performing Shakespeare was amazing.  As was the aforementioned piece, from an episode entitled Family Physics.  The segment about the black/Sicilian kid is called “Occam’s Razor”.  I’m coming back to that – it’s important.

So, a few weeks ago, I read something, somewhere (probably on, about a spinoff show they were doing as a podcast.  I basically filed it away vaguely in my gray matter, where it gathered dust until last Tuesday.  I was at a birthday dinner for a friend, and a guy I know only slightly started telling us about this thing called the Serial Podcast that he’d been listening to.  This his boyfriend came over and extolled the virtues of it as well.

I decided I’d download it and Matt and I could listen to it on our trip to Atlanta.

And that’s kind of what we did.  Matt dozed through parts of it, but by the time we hit my mother’s house, I was stone-cold hooked.

I listened to another episode before bed, and then finished them up on Thanksgiving day.

And then, on the flight to California, I listened again to a few of them. 

I’m hooked.

The story for this, the first season, is about a kid in Baltimore accused of killing his ex-girlfriend.  He was sentenced to life in prison in what appears to be a very thin case. 

The journalist telling the story was contacted by a friend of this kid saying, “What do you think”?

And for nine weeks, the journalist has picked apart every shred of evidence she can get to answer that question.  And in every episode, sometimes multiple times within the episode, I change my mind as to who did what to whom, when – it’s like the best episodes of Homicide,  The Wire and Dateline: Investigations that you will ever, ever hear.  And because it’s all audio, you get to fill in the visual blanks in your mind.

And as it turns out, I’m not the only obsessed Serial Podcast fan out there – although, I’m certainly late to the party.  There are going to be 12 episodes, and I joined at Week 9.   The next episode drops on Thursday, and I am counting the hours.

Anyway, it’s amazeballs, check it out.

Why am I telling you about this?  Well, it’s kind of a roundabout way of getting to my point.

The point is that, in this show, there’s an explanation of how the crime went down, and it’s flimsy, maybe – but not out of the realm of possible, so… OK, is this a case of Occam’s Razor, where the simplest explanation is the most likely?

And now that I’ve asked that, let’s apply the question to a real live issue.

I mentioned yesterday that I’m onsite with a customer – I also mentioned that I was definitely faking my system knowledge… well, they kind of copped on to that.  I got pulled into a meeting with their COO at 5PM where he basically said that their office manager had concerns about my mad skills, and I admitted they weren’t that mad.

It was awkward,  but to my credit, I managed to fake it for one whole day, and in the interim, I have learned some things.

Like where to get a sandwich for lunch quickly.

You can’t put a pricetag on these things.

Anyway.  They’re having trouble with a process, and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what they’re doing wrong.

I have theories.  It’s either happening when they add the appointment, or it is a bad configuration.  It’s one of the two and I suspect the first one.

They, on the other hand, think it’s a glitch in the software.

So their Occam’s Razor and mine are different.  It’s easiest for me to blame them, easiest for them to blame me, or at least the software I’m repping.

I will say this.  Everyone has been exceptionally nice.  I cannot complain about being mistreated – although, one might argue that feeling that I needed to sneak out to get a sandwich smacks of either mistreatment or paranoia.  Maybe both.

That's what my day has been like... you?


NPR: I can't stomach it. They all speak in some frequency that just grates on my brain.

Serial: I've got to binge-listen. I can't believe how much buzz this thing has.

Faking it: I shriveled up inside reading about you getting called on the carpet for your lack of knowledge. Apparently you've discovered my worst nightmare. Gee, thanks.