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On Being Thankful and Saying Goodbye

Five years ago, one of my college roommates was getting married in Miami, and with my grandparents (at the time) living just a bit north of there, it became an opportunity to visit them and (more importantly) to introduce them to Sunnia for the first time. She was nervous, and even I was a bit nervous, though I knew my grandparents would make her feel right at home. They did much more than that. My grandmother and my (future) wife bonded immediately. Despite there being nearly 60 years difference in age, being born on different continents, having different native languages and cultural backgrounds, the two of them bonded as if they had known each other forever (much to my own detriment at times). The two of them both have a mischievous joking side, and they would kid each other — and (more frequently) team up to make fun of me together.

Two and half years ago, I was thrilled that my Grandma Rose (with Grandpa Sid) was able to fly out to California for our wedding. You could see how thrilled (of course) she was to share that experience with us.

Two and half weeks ago, my travels took me to New York on my way to Europe for work, and I was able to stop by and visit them (since they had moved back to New York from Florida a few years ago). My friend Yuval picked me up from the airport and we drove up to Queens. Grandma was (as always) happy to see me, and thrilled to play host. She caught us up on family stuff and then spent time showing Yuval around the apartment, including scrapbooks of all my grandfather’s crafts and her own needlepoints. Then she gave us a tour of “the museum” as she called it — having put up a bunch of her old photos — including photos of her own (and my grandfather’s) grandparents.

She was her usual self, and what I remember most was her laughing and joking about the way Sunnia had informed Grandma of her pregnancy — doing a pitch-perfect mimic of Sunnia’s joking phone call and then roaring with laughter about how amusing it was.

Later my sister Amy and my cousins Jenny and Jason along with their kids came by and we had a really wonderful time.

Two days ago my Grandma Rose passed away.

It was her 69th wedding anniversary.

I’m typing this at 33,000 feet flying over Utah on my way to New York, having just returned from there a week ago. What had been planned as a quiet four day weekend with Sunnia has now turned into an unfortunate rushed return to New York for a funeral. Amazingly, despite the Thanksgiving weekend, we were able to get flights (and not even middle seats — though Sunnia’s sitting 13 rows behind me right now, and we’re returning on different flights).

A year and a half ago, for her 90th birthday, the six cousins who made up Grandma Rose’s grandchildren all told stories about her. I posted mine here. What became clear (even though we all knew it already) was that the biggest thing that came through in every story, was about her love of her family and her ability to keep us all together and as a close knit group, even as we all lived our own lives in different places around the country.

Seeing as it’s Thanksgiving, it seems only appropriate to give thanks for everything that Grandma Rose gave to us as a family over the years, through mostly good times and the occasional bad times. From being able to raise her three daughters, including my mom and her twin sister while my Grandfather was off fighting a war to passing on (not always wanted or appreciated) advice and wisdom to all her children, children-in-law, grandchildren and now great grandchildren, Grandma was always at her best being the glue that held the family together.

Grandma taught us all a lot about love and the importance of family — and while there’s plenty to be sad about today, there’s so much to be thankful for as well, for all that she gave to her family and shared with us over the years.

Email I Just Sent To BART Customer Service

To BART Customer Service,

This morning, October 4th, 2008, my wife and I tried to take BART to the San Francisco Airport. We have done this in the past with no problem. We purchased a parking permit, drove to Millbrae, and parked in the lot. We purchased our tickets, $1.50 each, and boarded the 5:48am train on Platform 3, which was clearly labeled as going to San Francisco Airport. We had looked up the train schedule online, where it also clearly stated that the 5:48 train went to San Francisco Airport.

To make sure, we even asked some others on the train, and everyone on the train agreed that this was the train to San Francisco Airport – including a group of people who worked at the airport and clearly had taken this train many times before.

Unfortunately, it appears that the conductor of the train had other ideas. After leaving Millbrae and flying through San Bruno and South San Francisco, we, as well as many other passengers on the train (including the airport workers), began to stand up and wonder where the train was headed. Other passengers, who said they always take this train, said that it made no sense, and it appeared the conductor simply forgot to go to the airport. We used the intercom system to ask, and were told that this train was NOT going to the airport. After more and more people started asking why not, the train conductor stopped the train at the next station, Colma, and told us that we should get off there and catch another train to SFO.

When we got off the train, we tried to go to the conductor to ask her what happened, and as she saw us approach (she was looking out the window back at us), she closed the doors and took off.

There was a group of about 10 of us, all trying to get to the airport, left alone on the platform. We used a phone to look up the train schedule, and discovered the next airport-bound train would not arrive for another HOUR.

We approached a BART employee at Colma who called to find out what happened, and tried to find out if he could get another train to take us all to the airport. He admitted to us that it appeared the conductor of our train simply ignored the route she was supposed to take. After staying on the phone for five minutes, he said we would need to wait another 10 to 15 minutes to find out if another train could come get us.

By this point, all of us (both travelers and airport workers) realized we needed to be at the airport before another train would arrive, so we all took taxicabs to the airport. For my wife and I, our cab ride cost us an additional $35.

We did eventually make it to the airport, but it was no thanks to BART, which stranded us at the wrong location, and forced us to pay an extra $35. I would like to request that BART refund the $35 my wife and I paid, as well as the $3 worth of BART tickets that we bought as well.

Both my wife and I have ridden BART for many years, and have never had any problems. We are assuming that this was a one-time mistake, but it has certainly shaken our faith in the BART system. We feel particularly bad for the airport employees who were late to work, and out the cab fees as well. I hope that BART will consider better systems to make sure these sorts of mishaps do not happen in the future.

Thanks for your attention to this matter,

Michael Masnick

Blog Post Update And Some Music…

Yeah, ok, so this blog has been totally neglected lately, but I’ve been sorta crazy busy. The truth, actually, is that I’ve got about 7 or 8 posts that I’ve written up over the past 3 or 4 months, mostly while flying on airplanes… and then I just haven’t had the time to actually import them from text files into WordPress as posts. I know… I know… it shouldn’t take much, but for some reason I haven’t found the time. But I’m going to start getting those posts up over the next few weeks (I hope), even if many of them may seem a bit out of date.

The other thing is that, like so many folks these days, I’m finding that Twitter is an easier way to keep folks updated on random happenings in my life — and with my Twitter feed plugged into Facebook, anyone who follows me on either of those services has a pretty good idea of what I’m up to these days.

Anyway, in the meantime, before I finally try to get around to putting up some of those posts, I’ve been playing around with Opentape, which is an open source version of Muxtape — a cool online “mixtape” app that was taken down by the RIAA. It took me all of about 2 minutes (and a couple tips from Dennis) to get it set up here on So, anyway, I wanted to test out the embed feature.

Dennis and I recently caught Vic Ruggiero playing a (free!) solo show in San Francisco, and it was absolutely fantastic. It’s been more than 15 years since I saw first Vic perform with the Slackers (at Wetlands), and I still catch the Slackers when they’re in town, but his solo stuff, which is quite different from the Slackers stuff, still blows me away as well. This is only the second time I’ve seen “solo Vic.” So, here’s a neat little playlist of Vic Ruggiero songs. The RIAA shouldn’t sue me to take it down since he’s not an RIAA artist — and hopefully Vic himself won’t sue me either. :) Go out and buy some Vic stuff.

To My Grandma Rose, On Her 90th Birthday

On my mother’s side, I have 5 cousins, making a total of six of us. From oldest (my sister) to youngest (my cousin Steven), there’s only 7 years difference. We all grew up in and around New York City, and we spent plenty of time together. We’re extremely close to this day (even though I’ve been 3,000 miles away for the past 10 years). The six of us all come from three sisters who were born to my grandparents in the 1940s: my mom, my aunt Carol (my mom’s identical twin sister) and my aunt Betty. And, of course, at the top of the pyramid are my grandparents, Rose & Sid, who really have kept this entire extended family so close together all these years:

My Grandparents

In about a month, my grandmother will turn 90. Three years ago, when my grandfather turned 90, the whole extended family got together for a big birthday party. The six of us cousins all wrote up stories about Grandpa Sid and what he meant to us. Now it’s Grandma Rose’s turn. Even though her birthday isn’t until the end of July, the only time all of us could get together was in the middle of June. We had a wonderful brunch, with the entire extended family — and the six of us cousins all wrote up our stories and read them outloud… Of course, that was just to our extended family listening to it. I figured why not share my thoughts with the rest of the world as well. I’ll email my cousins as well, to see if they want to add their thoughts in the comments. Anyway, here’s what I wrote (and read) for my Grandma Rose at her 90th birthday party:

Three years ago, when we all got together to celebrate Grandpa’s 90th birthday, I told Grandma she had to wait for her turn to hear stories about herself. I needed to do so, because I realized how difficult it was to think of Grandpa stories that didn’t have Grandma as a central figure – oftentimes speaking *for* Grandpa, before he was allowed to get out the words.

And, now, in thinking about what stories to tell about Grandma, I realize, again, how much Grandpa figures into every one of those stories – but also just how much a central figure Grandma has been in this entire family’s lives (again, oftentimes speaking for all of us, before we can get out the words!). When we look back on this family, it really is amazing how close we’ve all been for so many years, no matter where our paths have taken us (both literally and figuratively). And, while it may have seemed easy or natural for this to happen, I think we all have to admit that it’s been Grandma’s ever-steady hand (occasionally mixed with a good-natured scolding or question about when we’re getting married/having kids/etc.) that hasn’t just kept this extended family so close-knit, but also instilled all of us with our moral compass, our passion for life and our ability to have fun and laugh so frequently.

I tried to think of a story about Grandma that not everyone would know – and while I came up with a few, one of my favorites was the time I called a few years back, and Grandma answered the phone out-of-breath. She apologized, and explained: “I turned on the TV, and there’s a special on about Elvis Presley, so I started dancing.”

Yes, Grandma is a closet Elvis fan.

“Ah, what can I say?” She’ll say. “Let everyone just stay well. That’s all I want. That’s all.”

We’ve all heard her say that phrase, perhaps a thousand times – and it’s become Grandma’s mantra. But, that’s really not all. Grandma doesn’t just want us all to be well. She wants us all to be happy and find meaning in life. She knows how to make all of us laugh — and she takes a keen interest in what each of us is interested in, even if it’s beyond her scope of knowledge and experience.

For years, every single time I called to speak to her, she would let me know that her and Grandpa sat down at the WebTV every evening, after the 11 o’clock news, and before going to bed, to log onto Techdirt, and read what I’d written about that day.

“I don’t understand half of it — or sometimes all of it — but I read it.”

Sometimes she’d engage me: “So what you’re really saying is…” and it would always be exactly right, sometimes giving me new ways of thinking about things.

I got to see this nightly ritual first hand a few years back, when I was in Florida for a conference. As bedtime rolled around, Grandma and Grandpa came out to the terrace, turned on the TV. Grandma sat towards the back, in her comfy recliner, with the TV tray table and the wireless WebTV keyboard. Grandpa in the front, with the remote control. The two of them, working as a team, would log in, check their email, and then call up Techdirt from a list of bookmarks. Grandma would read each post outloud, and when she reached the bottom, command Grandpa to “Scroll!” with the remote.

Even with me sitting there, Grandma made sure to read every last post, and comment on about half of them

A few years later, the first time I brought (a very nervous) Sunnia to meet Grandma and Grandpa, Grandma immediately made her feel not just at ease, but as if she were already one of the family. The two of them bonded instantly – sometimes to my own detriment. Early on, she heard Sunnia gently scold me for something I had done (or, more likely, not done), and immediately took her side – and later passed on a list of her most important lessons from 60+ years of marriage. There were two that stood out:

  • Always kiss each other before going to sleep
  • The woman is always right

Sunnia reminds me of this constantly. Any time I disagree with her, she chides: “Remember what your grandmother said!”

And, so we do, always, remember what Grandma says. Grandma. Happy 90th birthday, to the glue that holds this family together and gives us all so much joy and life. And, let us all remember: Grandma is always right.

Participatory Pre-Wedding Event: Everyone Search For The Lost Wedding Band

Originally uploaded by Paul M.

So, DiPasquo and Robin got married last Friday, and while it was a lovely and fun wedding in many ways, it may be most memorable for the… er… somewhat unplanned pre-ceremony group event known as “everyone search through the grass for the missing wedding band.”

While apparently the rings were originally tied to the young ring bearer’s pillow, somehow they came undone right before the ceremony. Someone saw Dan’s ring fall, so that was picked up quickly, but Robin’s was already long gone. So, a large segment of the wedding attendees spent 15 to 20 minutes combing the grass for the elusive wedding band to no avail.

A substitute was procured and the rest of the event went off without a hitch. Dan sent me a text message on Sunday saying that his brother-in-law rented a metal detector and they spent four hours Sunday morning… and finally found it! Damn. Four hours with a metal detector? I’m not sure I would have lasted that long.

Update: Aha! Mer put up a video montage from the wedding that include a bit of tape on everyone searching through the grass:

Dan + Robin’s wedding NOV 2 2007 from merpeck on Vimeo.