Justin Hall's personal site growing & breaking down since 1994

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November 2012 Archives

Thanksgiving 2012

I have the job of saying grace before my big family meals. Thanks Mom! Here is my offering for Thanksgiving 2012:

[don't read this if you're part of my family and we're having dinner together 22 November 2012!!!! I'm going to read this aloud to you instead :-) ]

in this clarity of autumn
when the leaves ride high on the compost pile

looking through bare branches
we might see the capacity in our world for new beginnings

since we are all alive around this table right now
that means we have survived at least this long

and we can awaken our minds
to make something new

each day
we are grateful

This sits atop a pile of past Thanksgivings. Perhaps my favorite short Thanksgiving grace was part of 2010:

thanks for the crazy set of circumstances
that has us upright mammals
Sitting politely around the riches of a living planet
Ready to eat as a family
And give thanks


And I'm glad I made this family Thanksgiving video in 2004:

Thanksgiving 2K4 vid
Thanksgiving 2K4 - ten minutes - 77 megabyte Quicktime

talk high drink low

On 15 November 2012 I gave a talk at a "Bay Area Technology Symposium" hosted by my Chicago-based school Francis W. Parker. I was the oldest panelist, a sign that my years to yet innovate might be dwindling. Ahah hurrah!

four panelists
FWP Tech Symposium Panelists: Justin Hall, Fletcher Rothkopf, Adam Smoler, Daniel Furhman (moderator)

I spoke from some loose notes, and had a fine time. Knowing that I might want to see how I did, I propped up my mobile phone on an abandoned diet coke glass and recorded the proceedings. The video is posted on Youtube and included below all this screed.

Updates to this web site happen so infrequently, it would seem logical to just post a video and say "here I am, I have thoughts in this other format, please consume me!!!" But I am also eager to match the decaying textbits in these pages and demonstrate that I can still be introspective through my fingers. Pages of an offline memoir continue to take some shape in a cloud-based textfile, and this story below seems too momentary to be life-defining memoir material. But I wrote it nonetheless, because this talk, and the next 48 hours was at least week-defining, and a sign to me that maturity can mean coming to terms with painful limits:

Where I spoke there was wine and beer plus soda and water served. Plus I spied a bottle of tequila behind the bartender. That day, I had had a beer with my lunch, a beer and burger with a good old colleague. So I was maybe already feeling like a liver-survivor - I opted to have a tequila or three on ice around the time of my talk. Not that anyone would notice, I think - I believe I hold a small number of drinks without evincing obvious insobriety. I guess that makes me a tolerable person?

Then after the talk I joined other lively colleagues, nearly all my junior in years, and we went out for a post-bedtime dinner, mexican food which means mexican drinks which for me meant another margarita or two.

Bed around midnight and then awake early to interview ngmoco:) CEO Clive answering questions sent from Japan. A half-glass of bubbling chilled pinot noir (really!) at lunch to celebrate a transition. Dinner saw two beers over a long chat with friends Eric and Natalie. And then a housewarming with some rum punch.

At that party a friend was holding his young child. His dog at his feet. A friend approached and said, you have a child, a dog, a house - what's next? And this friend put a finger to his temple and pantomimed blowing his brains out. It has a certain logic to it, perhaps - first you accumulate all the obvious treasures and then you reach for nothingness. Richard Cory-esque. And, unsettlingly, Wesley Hall-esque as well.

As the evening deepened, I began to feel uneasy in my flesh bag. In spite of mostly enjoying social pinball in crowds and essentially loving humans, I sometimes get very uncomfortable. This eve I had felt a growing unease, like I didn't know where to stand or who to talk with. Offered an image of a man with children blowing his head off pushed me to take my growing dis-ease on the road.

And as I left I felt increasingly weighed down by the air around me. I felt confused by so many basic choices. I got on a bus the 22 Fillmore in my customary workwear, a three piece suit. Sometimes I get a bit chuffed by the attention and the social commerce of being well dressed. Now I felt withdrawn and serious but about nothing.

I had a text buzzing in my pocket inviting me to a friendly gathering. But I asked myself what I wanted to do, and I didn't want to talk to people. I wanted to be alone if I wanted to be anything. I retreated home, stripped off my clothes and I was in bed by 10pm. So tired for no good reason - perhaps because I had stopped drinking. There were all kinds of bad choices ahead of me, I figured, and maintaining alcohol could help me find all of them.

Instead I elected to let my alcohol level recede. And in its place, my blood was depleted. I spent Saturday all day turning down socializing, avoiding my personal writing, coding and artmaking projects, and feeling very confused and sad. Suddenly none of life made sense and I start to wonder what I'm doing, why I'm dying slowly, what more I hope to accomplish with each breath. Fortunately I have been through enough dark hours to see that I could expect to feel happy again, and I could begin to search for causes.

The most likely cause, I figure, was too much casual alcohol over too long. It's not like I drank a lot in one evening. It's like I had a few drinks every few hours for two days. And then I stopped. In the place of that sloshing good humor came a rank sadness. My mother is fond of warning me to be extra-cautious of alcohol, based on my father's example. He drank until he had to drink to maintain. Now I am stunned to see how sustained alcohol in my aging body might douse a core spark I am accustomed to in my brain. Abunai!!!

And, I wonder if I might not have slipped into some deep depression as a result of all the positive feedback I received after my brief remarks. I really do love standing up in front of people and opening my mouth. It's definitely vanity. People said nice things to me afterwards, enough that I felt like I have a calling, and it's to open my mouth. I hope to do more of it, though public speaking does give me a high that casts aspersions on my more mundane tasks.

Whatever my future ratio of speaking and toiling, I recorded this session and posted it online. At least for a few moments, my breath amounted to stories that seemed to amuse the people around me. And that's a fun thing.

Here's that 18 minutes "Justin Hall: My Path through SF Tech Scene":

If you're interested in having me speak anywhere, I'm definitely game - drop me a line! Thanks for your attention.


Thanks Steve Rhodes - from @tigerbeat on Instagram
June 2012 dancing in the streets of San Francisco with Ilyse Magy, photo thanks Steve Rhodes on instagram!

Hi, I'm Justin Hall and this here is a personal web site I've used to chronicle my time on earth since 1994. The content on the front page is relatively recent; if you search through the archives, you'll find old pieces of Justin. Some folks have indexed my doings on Wikipedia.

Twitter: jah
Facebook: Justinreach

eBooks by Justin Hall

I've published books for sale, somewhere else online! Behold:

Now available for the Kindle: A Story of GameLayers. My experience being CEO of a tech company, 2007-2009:

"A tell-all story of a startup from the very beginning, with lots of info about real-world fundraising. A more intimate look than you'll find in other business reads." says Irene Polnyi in a 5-star review on

A Story of GameLayers, for the Amazon Kindle.