Every now and then, I like to talk about abstract math concepts with my kids. I don’t have a background in mathematics or anything, but I do love having complex math concepts distilled and spoonfed to me. I find it soothing. I particularly like Numberphile videos. So, every now and then, the twins and I will talk about stuff like infinity.

Back in October or November, I was talking about sets with Eleanor, and she said “oh! I already know this! Abagnale!” And … that didn’t mean anything to me. I thought “…Frank Abagnale?” and said “What?”

Eleanor: You know, Abagnale!
Me: You don’t mean Frank Abagnale, right?
Ele: Who? No. No. I mean, you know, a lot of sets. First there’s Abagnale, then there’s Omega, then there’s Ortega.
Me: There is not! Ortega is not in there.
Ele: Ok, maybe not Ortega, I’m not sure about that one, but there’s definitely Abagnale.

Bob and I exchanged looks. Because there is no Abagnale term in math that we know of, and how do we look this up?

I asked Ele a bit more about this, and she had watched a math video about infinite sets (like mother like daughter), and that’s where she found out about Abagnale. So she and I went on Youtube and looked up videos about infinite sets, and found this one. The very video she watched! She was so pleased and excited that finally (finally) we would see that Abagnale was real.

It turns out Eleanor pronounces “Aleph null” as “Abagnale” and there’s nothing you can tell her that will make her change.

Me: Oh, it’s “Aleph null.”
Ele: Right, Abagnale.
Me: Aleph.
Ele: (mumbling)
Me: Null.
Ele (triumphant): Abagnale!

Needless to say, I didn’t know about Abagnale before Eleanor introduced it to me, and it’s a really neat experience to excitedly talk about something with your own child, and have them be just as excited and introduce you to new stuff about it too. I’m used to that happening with grownups, but it’s really really cool to experience it with an 8 year old that I personally made.

2020, the future

I am a Wait, But Why devotee, and this post really made me chuckle:

It’s also weird that to us, the 2020s sounds like such a rad futuristic decade—and that’s how the 1920s seemed to people 100 years ago today. They were all used to the 19-teens, and suddenly they were like, “whoa cool we’re in the twenties!” Then they got upset thinking about how much farther along in life their 1910 self thought they’d be by 1920.


Read the whole thing, there are some fun trivia in there, and it’s also maybe a two-minute read.

7 years an Automattician

Seven years ago today was my very first day as a full time Automattician. According to our internal stats, there are 91 current employees hired before me, and 1,058 hired after me. I remember when I started that a 5-year anniversary seemed quite unusual and special. My intention was to be around forever, but it was still somehow intimidating to see other people start to rack up anniversaries. And yet, here we are! Seven years on, and going strong.

My life has changed for the better, being an Automattician. I have a healthy work/life balance, I get to do work that I find challenging and rewarding, and I contribute to a company with a mission and creed that mean a lot to me.

I’ve also learned enough to have evolved my mindset. I find myself a more careful and flexible thinker. I have strong processes, loosely held. I appreciate a good routine, and don’t hesitate to revisit and revise it. I also find myself thinking for myself more, rather than blinding accepting or rejecting concepts or ideas — I think I was ok at this to start, but I’ve definitely gotten better. I have also cultivated my “let’s get this toast” side (i.e., “I may not yet have all the details, but I trust you so let’s get moving and we’ll figure it out as we go”), which is fun, freeing, and a really great way to build knowledge fast.

I’ve learned a lot about people, too. Since my trial here I’ve been struck by how you get to know the way a person thinks and decides, long before you know how they talk or walk, or even look (we have since moved to using video chat much more than we used to, so I do have a passing understanding of what people look like at this point). It’s a marvelous atmosphere for basing confidence on merit, on actual action, on fixed results. I’ve also been able to routinely interact with a wide variety of people-types. I live in a small town, in a rural area, so there’s a lot of homogeneity here. At Automattic, I get the benefit of having my own biases challenged and tweaked, so if I can’t remove them, I can be aware of them. I also get the luxury of being able to form friendships (or at the very least cordial working relationships) with many more types of people, in many more types of circumstances than I would if I worked in a traditional office environment. It’s a wonderful thing.

I’ve had the chance (and excuse) to be exposed to some great thinking, both within the company itself, and through things the company offers (including training and our annual GM). I’ve had the opportunity to become more comfortable with large concepts and to accept where the limits of my understanding lie, and not to find those limits as blockers, but a boundary to be explored.

All of which can be exhausting! I’ve also learned to stop, to let things go, and to rest. Rejuvenation is essential to any personal evolution; just like in exercise when you need to take a rest day (even if you feel you could power through), resting your ever-growing mind is also important. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest, and that might mean knowing when to shift focus, or finding a new (harder?) challenge. But sometimes it means turning off your computer and taking the long way home.

Once, seven years felt like a long time. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s gone by in a blink. It’s only the start of my career here. I look forward to the rest of it, whatever it may mean, and whatever I may learn.

Core Happy balloon, the mascot of Happiness


Ever since Grant has learned how to escape his crib, any time he wakes up in the night he clambers out and pads up to our room. Sometimes he wakes up while we are still awake and downstairs, and we listen to him thud to the ground and thunder like an elephant down the hallway and up the stairs.

When he arrives, he skirts around the bed to my side and pats me insistently. I sit up and let him crawl in, then shove him further over (because he always chooses the exact center of my pillow to rest his head). The last few nights as I’ve settled back down and fluffed the duvet around us, he’s said “mama? Mom? I love you mom.” And any thought I had of carrying him back to his own bed drifts away as I say “I love you too baby.” He doesn’t let me call him “baby” most of the time, now. He says “I’m not a baby! I’m Grant!” See also “I’m not a lovey! I’m Grant!” But when he’s relieved that he’s sleeping in the big bed, he lets it go.

Of course I regret not taking him back after he drives his sharp little heels into my back repeatedly, but that little “I love you mom” really does wonders for him. And for me.