September 11, 1977: Windows on the World has been open for about five months, and it is the trendy place to have lunch and see the city. I’m terrified of heights, and New York City is just exiting the Summer of Sam, so it’s a choose your own adventure. My family took me for my 9/11 birthday, and it was wonderful, and the beginning of conquering that fear.

1991–1993: Lower Manhattan becomes my second office as I’m commuting from Boston to Wall Street about once every other week, helping Sun Microsystems build a mid- and back-office. …


At the midpoint of the year, I’ve finished 30 books, which is slightly higher than average and much more reading given that I haven’t been on a plane for business travel in over 18 months. The bulk of my spring reading was women sci-fi authors and diverse authors; features were “Project Hail Mary” (Andy Weir’s latest, it would be a superb movie) and Monica Byrne’s “The Actual Star” (I’m a Patreon supporter of hers, got an advance reader copy that completely blew my mind, and a movie adaptation would be no harder to follow than “This is Us”). The conclusion…


This is virtual Princeton Reunions weekend, the second year of the pandemic in which the annual orange and black cavalcade is virtual. Reunions, like Hanukah and the Olympics, are the slightly weird friend who comes to your house, each year in a new shape and size, and fires up memory and old stories, only to leave when you’ve had your fill and in so doing, leaving a slight ache for the next return visit.

I’m skipping the virtual Reunion, as it’s both an off year and the thought of blurry backgrounds won’t replace the regalia and familiar places that make…


The ninth year of keeping a reading list: I like to chronicle what I’ve read and how I’ve reacted, mostly to share my thinking about my thinking. Books are listed in the order in which I’ve finished them, which may not reflect my reading order — I sometimes have two books going at once if one is more technical or business focused and I need to season it with sci-fi or fiction.

I also try to highlight why I picked up a book, or the path that led me to the author. The first quarter pool of Year Two of…


This week marks one year since I’ve been on an airplane. That milestone took me back to Spring Break 1981, which was the first time I took an airplane anywhere; from then until the spring of 1984 was the longest I’ve gone in adult life without cramming my frame into a poorly padded aluminum seat.

In the ensuing four decades of work, travel, and sports fandom, I find myself coming back to college basketball for inspiration, words of wisdom and the annual demarcation of indoor and outdoor sports seasons. …


My family has a long relationship with trees. My great grandfather was a tree cutter in (today’s) Ukraine. Our daughter’s name derives from the Hebrew word for “oak.” Three trees, haphazardly growing in a diamond, marked the backyard baseball of my elementary school days, their weak trapezoidal geometry an accurate reflection of my baseball abilities. Stewart Brand’s relation of the Oxford University main hall forresters in The Clock Of The Long Now made me rethink long-term systems reliability.

I like trees. But until New Year’s Eve, I never had one in my personal care.

Which is how I came to…


In a year when few things went as planned, including losing all of the time I spent on business travel, in airports, and on beach vacations where I’d be reading, I managed to finish 47 books in 2020. I ventured into much more music, business, and new author territory. I also focused on reading authors who aren’t like me — cis, white, straight, male and American — and discovered some superb new worlds, real and imagined.

To conclude the plague year, this list goes to eleven:

37. “Tropic of Kansas,” sci fi, Christopher Brown, Finished October 8.

Dystopian novels are…


It’s frequently just one wire that separates joy from despair. This was first made evident to me in Princeton E-Quad basement lab, where a lab partner’s elaborate breadboard was tagged with a note from his quasi-evil partner saying “Moved one wire, have a great weekend!” The wire in question was of course the most obvious — the power lead — and in the days before we snapped pictures with our cell phones to document simple life configurations, this was the thinnest acceptable terminator line.

I’ve turned that lesson of looking for the most obvious defect into a small hobby of…


It’s been nine months of Zoom bass lessons — enough time to gestate some new ideas for getting the best, simplest rig together to be able to take a lesson, play along with a music source, and occasionally jam with some remote friends.

Here are the problems:

  • I want to be able to play my bass and have a studio microphone so I can talk to “the other end” — whether I’m counting beats or singing intervals in a lesson or talking to the drummer (not that drummers listen but still)
  • I need to be able to hear what’s happening…

This is a story I submitted ten years ago to a fledgling sports magazine as part of a sports fiction contest. Neither the magazine nor story did very well, but the shinny hockey pictorial essay in the November 29 New York Times made me revisit it, update it, and decide to share it on the day that indoor hockey has been postponed in New Jersey. We will all hold onto our game faces a bit longer.

February

“Less than a gallon of blue paint” is the answer that pops into my head. My left hand is holding a red Borgata…

Hal Stern

By day: CIO for R&D at a drug company. Scalable computing, data privacy, performance. Non-day: husband, parent, phan, bass player, ice hockey coach

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