Twenty Years of Character Encoding Mismatches

So, I anticipated this problem when we gave Ess her full name: Esmé… but I didn’t quite realize the extent of the problems she’ll have with computers accurately displaying her name:

… my girlfriend’s surname contains an ‘é’. I have yet to see a year go by without receiving mail having ‘é’ on the address label where the é should be.

We’re Dutch, and the é is part of our language, and even part of the legacy character encoding standard everyone used before Unicode’s widespread adoption. This is just a matter of code that works perfect as long as all characters are part of the ASCII set, but fails on the characters that don’t conveniently match between UTF-8 (é) and ISO-8859-15 (é).

I doubt these issues will go away within even, say, twenty years.

Sorry about this, Ess. You’re going to receive a lot of mail addressed to ‘Esmé Micek’. And you’re going to learn character encoding the memorable way! I’ll be happy to teach you.


Look Your Last

Ira Glass’s Favorite Part of David Rakoff’s Last Writings - The Atlantic:

It was sadness that gripped him, far more than the fear
That, if facing the truth, he had maybe a year.
When poetic phrases like “eyes, look your last”
Become true, all you want is to stay, to hold fast.
A new, fierce attachment to all of this world
Now pierced him, it stabbed like a deity-hurled
Lightning bolt lancing him, sent from above,
Left him giddy and tearful. It felt like young love.
He’d thought of himself as uniquely proficient
At seeing, but now that sense felt insufficient.
He wanted to grab, to possess, to devour
To eat with his eyes, how he needed that power.

From Rakoff’s final book Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish.

Film and Totoro

Lauren Wilford makes the case that not only children’s film, but film in general needn’t always follow narrative, that doing so is a restriction of its potential. More in her piece Towards a True Children’s Cinema: on ‘My Neighbor Totoro’:

As cinema grew up and learned to talk in the 1930s, it developed more rules and conventions. And as children grow, they learn how a movie is “supposed” to go; they internalize the beats of the structure. Most people spend the rest of their lives watching a type of film they were taught to enjoy in their childhood. Those who venture into the world of international film, art film, and counter-cinema may find that it’s not just about developing a taste for the slow or unusual, or getting out ahead of our desire for traditional narrative—it’s about getting back to our cinematic state of nature. Perhaps our mistake is in wanting to use films, to have them cater to us and keep us from boredom, rather than to see them, love them, and respect them as the free, precious, ephemeral things that they are.

All this may make it sound like I’m making an “eat your vegetables” argument for watching My Neighbor Totoro. I do think that most children’s entertainment has been pumped with a kind of spiritual and aesthetic corn syrup, in a desperate effort to make it go down easy. But I think the desperation is unnecessary, and has resulted in a sort of “Dorito effect” in children’s media: louder, faster, higher-stimulus, partially-hydrogenated entertainment is addictive, and tends to crowd out quieter pleasures.

And this sums up a scene that, after 1.5 viewings has already stuck fast in my mind, far better than I can:

I remember how Mei first met the giant Totoro—innocently, awkwardly climbing onto the belly of this unknown beast, but somehow sensing in the cadence and rumble of his powerful breath that he was good. As I watched Mei’s delicate physical and emotional arc over the scene—she goes from giggling delight to apprehension to full-throated roaring to, at last, a deep and peaceful sleep—I could feel love emanating from the frame. Love for Totoro, love for Mei, love for the forest, love for the viewer.

Ate Some Bugs There

A few days ago, Ess and I were walking through the garage to get the watering cans so she could play her current favorite outdoor game: mashing tiny toy ladybugs and ducks and geese in the dirt so she can rinse them off in the watering can water. She’ll do this for the better part of an hour before losing interest. So anyway, Ess starts conversations on her own. I love her topics:

*cough cough*
I ate some bugs there on the bike ride.


In a few hours, it’ll be three years since Ess was born. For the first two years, there was kind of a catching of the breath after each stage: after she began sleeping more reliably, after she stopped needing to be burped, after she could sit through a meal out at a restaurant. Beginning with this birthday, it is a less of a catching of the breath and more this sense of taking a memory (“hope I don’t fall down” whenever she climbed the stairs) or a mis-pronunciation (dooDAHNdaht for banana) and reverently setting it on the shelf, leaving it behind.

We flew a kite with Ess today, and she laughed riotously as I continually crashed it into the ground. I read her a story before bed. Mykala made her a birthday cake shaped like a purple ladybug. I carried her on my shoulders. All of this, the way we spend time, the things that entertain Ess… we’ll have to eventually cede them to growing up and moving on. I try to keep at the front of my mind to help me remember that this makes it all precious.

Love you, Ess.

No Up Without Down

Four of us were busily chatting in the kitchen the other day, and Ess came in to tell us all something. We were very engaged talking to one another, and Ess could tell and she started to get this little hitch-stutter-filler in her speech, uncertainly stretching out words, aware that nobody was listening, wondering whether to continue. Essie’s experience lasted a brief moment, but the profound pain I felt in response, my daughter here, talking, no one listening, startled me. Here’s the flip side of that:

Now the commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why. From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.

Chief Justice John Roberts, speaking at his son’s commencement ceremony.

Chalk Toonie

Chalk Toonie

I’m very proud of this portrait I made of Toonie.

Eating a Banana

Eating a Banana



Golf Cart Golf Ball