A trip to Pittsburgh.

Man in doctoral robes at Carnegie Mellon University

Last weekend my former college roommate received a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University. The commencement was blatantly grand, the artificial Scottish ancestry of CMU enhanced by bagpipers and banners. A degree was conferred by a college president in a tartan robe. Later, Steve's mother wept and his father gave him a minute-long embrace. I am proud to know someone who worked so hard.

In 1994, the Alternative Cinema Club at Alfred University was showing a 3D movie, The Creature From the Black Lagoon. We planned to see it, and he showed up at the movie theater with eye patches, one for each of us.

We put them on and insisted to be let in half price—$1.50 instead of $3.00, since we'd only see two dimensions. The ticket-taker balked, pissed. So Steve and I joined hands and made a scene, crying out “Unfair! Unfair to pirates!” in front of a crowd of the confused. We kept it up until the movie started, then left to pursue something else.

Now, the diploma tucked in the back of the car, we all went to dinner and began to trade pirate jokes.

“What kind of fish do Jewish pirates eat?”


A pause for chewing.

“What does a pirate use to back up his files on a Unix machine?”


“And what does his parrot say?”


Another pause. A gleam in the eye.

“What do you call a naked pirate in a room with a wolf?”

“I don't know.”

“Conceptual ARRRRRt.”

We laughed and snorted, our sophomore nature preserved in time. The next day—back to our lives and work, he with a doctorate and plane tickets to San Jose, myself back to Brooklyn and my projects here.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


There is a Facebook group.


You will regret following me on Twitter here.


Enter your email address:

A TinyLetter Email Newsletter

About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


Syndicate: RSS1.0, RSS2.0
Links: RSS1.0, RSS2.0


© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

Tables of Contents