Posts tagged with #blog

My mom has been battling a mystery brain ailment since the beginning of November, and earlier this week we all just found out that she’s one in a million and has a very rare and fatal brain disease called Creutzfield-Jakob disease (CJD). It’s in the family of Prion diseases and is alarmingly progressive, horrific, and incurable. In 26 days it’s gone from her not being able to recall individual words to barely being able to communicate and needing help to be fed. To quote my mom: “It’s a bugger. It’s a real bugger.”

I’m thankful for my family being in Austin, and how any gripes we’ve had with each other have been swiftly put into clear perspective: irrelevant. I’m also thankful that despite the upcoming brutal days, weeks, or months of decline we’re having the chance to get some closure, receive some last minute words of wisdom for the future, and to say goodbye—things a sudden event would rob us of. That all being said, this experience is in a new category of difficult and terrifying for all parties involved.

When I’ve been on your end of this grief/consolation equation, I’ve often been at a loss for words and haven’t known what to say. I don’t expect you to know what to say. What can you say? What can you do? Consider this me letting you off the hook, and accepting that nobody is good at this and everyone gets a little weird. I feel a little more than weird about it, and you’re allowed to as well. I don’t really need any help with the matter at hand, and lying on the floor and crying into the rug is an activity best done solo.

The only reason I’m even making this public announcement and telling you all this is a) in case you know me well enough to have met my Mom, b) if I seem a little off in the next couple of months you’ll have some context, and c) in case you’ve been hiding a secret cure for prion diseases.

Thanks for the support, I appreciate you, and I hope all your loved ones live forever.


NYT just bought two of the most useful review sites on the internet for 30 Million dollars, and it’s amazing.

Matt Haugley said most of everything I want to say about this here, but let me tell you why I think this is really cool.

These sites solve a real problem in the best way. The problem being finding an answer to the question “What’s the best _____ to buy?”, and the best way being by just telling you which thing is best right away, backed up by an in depth writeup of how they decided that.

Most review sites will dive deep and dish out all the data of all the different choices, sandwiching advertising between sections for profit, and in the end not even give you a definitive answer leaving you to piece together all the data to form a conclusion.

The former experience is far superior.

Even more amazing, both of these sites were created by one guy in Honolulu, neither site is ad-supported (!!), and he didn’t take any VC funding!

As Matt said in his blog post:

I imagine every step of the development of the Wirecutter/Sweethome was about people laughing at Brian.

You can’t build a tech site that doesn’t publish 20 times a day. You can’t build a content site that isn’t covered with advertising. You can’t build an entire business on Amazon affiliate revenue. You can’t take on Consumer Reports and expect to get any traction. You can’t pay for this level of in-depth reporting. Ok, great, you built this, but why would anyone ever come back?

Ignore the haters and do it anyway. Amazing work, Brian Lam.

This was a really good interview with Brian about the sites, before it was purchased.

Sleeping on this flight seems completely unchallenging. I prefer mentally trying to get as small as possible, blocking out the world with a sleep mask and earplugs, and trying my best to hibernate for the majority of the flight. Then I wake up feeling wrecked and ready to hit it hard in the destination city.

Making future plans is an effort for me usually, and I can often get wrapped in the days so much that I miss the weeks and months flying by.

Since I quit the 9-5 thing and started playing the self-employment game I’ve been able to work from anywhere, but for a while I didn’t really take advantage of it like I wanted to. So somewhere around the beginning of this year I decided to try and travel somewhere every month in 2016.

A modest goal. And it’s a goal I stuck to.

In January I was in San Francisco to visit my friend Stephen, and then we went to Tahoe to go skiing. Also went camping in Colorado bend State park.

In February I went to New Orleans for a bachelor party, and I was in Houston at a client onsite meeting for a week.

In March I was in Portland for a conference and for fun.

In April I had a magical long weekend in New York City.

In May I had no plans and the month slipped right by. And then on the 28th, realizing if I didn’t act fast I would have failed, I looked for last minute flights to anywhere to keep up this goal. Flights to Denver are always cheap, so I called up my friend Knox to see if he was available.

Read the rest of this

You’ve never got it down. It’s this fluid thing, music. I kind of like that. I wouldn’t like to be blasé or think, ‘Oh you know I know how to do this.’ In fact I teach a class at a the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys — I do a little songwriting class with the students — and nearly always the first thing I go in and say [is], ‘I don’t know how to do this. You would think I do, but it’s not one of these things you ever know how to do.

What a comfort. Nobody knows what they’re doing—they just do.

Further evidence that even idols are imperfect, self-doubting humans. Paul McCartney questioning one of the greatest albums of all time.

Dear Central Market,

You’re my favorite grocery store by a long shot! I’m a regular, and I’ll always be a regular—but I have an important comment about some cookies of yours.

It’s those chocolate crispy ones. You know the ones.

I have been buying those things for years, and they are simply amazing. AMAZING. And ever since I discovered those marvels, I’ve watched the price slowly and steadily creep up in dime or quarter-sized increments to its current pinnacle of just under $6.

I’ve wondered about the motivations of the price increases. Did a kink in the supply chain shoot up the cost of the ingredients? Did the “Low Gluten Diet” sticker that was added a couple of years ago produce a spike in demand, while supply remained steady? Or did someone at CM finally realize what a gold mine those cookies are, and decided to set a premium product at a premium price?

No matter the reason, I just wanted to let y’all know something: there is no price that I will not pay for those cookies. Tack on another couple of bucks for all I care. I’ll probably still hit a weak point come the bakery section and slide a cylinder of those babies into my shopping basket without thinking twice.

But you’re not fooling me. I see what you’re doing, and I don’t love it nearly as much as I love the cookies.

Jeff Keen

A photo posted by Jeff Keen (@jeffkeen) on

My parents kept a notebook I had for piano lessons when I was 5, and there’s this revealing apology written by my dear mother to my teacher.

So different from Roger.


Story of my life as the youngest child, disappointing teachers year after year when they expected a rule follower and got a smartass.


Cue the tears, this is a heartbreaker.

“No matter what people think, I know I’m a human first.”

It’s easy to stay in our bubble and pretend that struggles like this don’t exist. But they do, and it’s a good reminder that our lives are a fucking cakewalk comparatively.

If the three minute video excerpt cracked your heart open a bit—you’re not the only one. When it first came out, the internet got motivated and started a fundraiser to get Ronald back on his feet.

But let’s give our hearts the ol’ mortar and pestle treatment by knowing this:

It’s been a year since these fundraisers were started, but Ronald is still homeless. From thousands of dollars that were raised he only saw $200 and a cell phone that was cut off. The people who fundraised for him where never to be seen again. They ran with his money.

Ronald was reluctant to talk to us at first—his belief in humanity was broken, but we promised him we are here to help him and spread this story. He deserves justice, and he still deserves a fresh start that he was promised.

I have no words.

Prince being Prince and just nailing this guitar solo at George Harrison’s tribute concert.

Also worth watching: Prince’s amazing superbowl half-time show. Playing Purple Rain in the pouring rain? C’mon.

There was a great exchange on Facebook between two of my friends when Prince died:

Mark: I’ve never been so sad that a musician has died. I’m even sadder today than yesterday. I can’t put my finger on the reason why–I’m not even a ‪#‎prince‬ superfan.

Tony: I think there’s so much bullshit in the world, and then you have a guy like Prince. Gifted, creative…an icon. A guy who always did things the way he wanted to do them. It seemed like he was all about giving his music and his vibes to the world… It sucks that a guy like that suddenly disappears

Mark: Beautifully said. Prince was 100% Prince and 0% bullshit1.

In the Spring of ‘93 I was in sixth grade, and I vividly remember riding my black Raleigh 21 speed mountain bike across my hometown of Mankato, Minnesota to meet a girl I just started seeing. It was a beautiful crisp spring Saturday, and I was looking sharp in my black windbreaker pants, and matching black, white and bright blue windbreaker jacket. Most importantly though, I had my walkman strapped to me and my headphones on with Prince’s “7” blasting on repeat while I made the 2.5 mile ride.

Those harmonies got me then, and they still get me today.

  1. Definition of bullshit needs some clarifying here, but I like the sentiment regarding his music. It could be argued that Prince was full of bullshit if you’ve heard Kevin Smith talk about his experience with him

New York
November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First – if you are in love – that’s a good thing – that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second – There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you – of kindness and consideration and respect – not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply – of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it – and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone – there is no possible harm in saying so – only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another – but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens – The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.



Oh man, the last few weeks have been pretty rough, health-wise. Was it bronchitis? Was it my first bout of Austin allergies? Who can say, but I haven’t felt better in what feels like years, and I can sing again. This is good news for my overall happiness, and my will to live.

There were some dark days in there, where wallowing in my misery got the best of me and I didn’t have the will to do much of anything. There are people in this world who get sick and carry on like nothing is wrong, and I tip my hat to those people. Much respect, as they are much tougher than this delicate flower of a man.

It’s raining this week in Austin, and I’m loving it. It stormed and poured last night, and the thunder was so loud it rattled my bones. The best. And it’s supposed to be like this all week. My british isles roots are strong, and it’s rare Austin rainy days like this that make me question how I’m living in one of the hottest and driest cities in the US, when I thrive in sweater weather and have no aversions to umbrellas. I’m going to Portland for conference soon, so hopefully I’ll get some more rainy and cool weather before Austin delivers consistent crippling heat for the next seven months.

Maybe it’s the novelty, and having rain all the time would be soul crushing in its own way, but today I’m savoring it. I’ve been camped out in a couple of favorite coffee shop windows, enjoying the weather, working on things, and feeling thrilled to be able to breathe again. It’s the little things.

Check this out: my great grandparents’ wedding in 1904. Those mustaches! My great great grandfather (seated) looking so much like Daniel Day Lewis! The sheer and utter joy spilling out of their faces!

My great grandparents' wedding, 1904. Mustache game is strong. #tbt #supertbt

A photo posted by Jeff Keen (@jeffkeen) on

I did a little research on the lack of smiles in Victorian-era photos, and what I assumed originally was a result of having to stand perfectly still for a photo turns out to be incorrect. Instead, smiling in a photo back then was viewed in the same way as today’s duckface: totally unacceptable.

“A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.” - Mark Twain

Sometimes it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the minutia and forget about the amazing night sky. Last weekend I took a little camping trip out to Colorado Bend State Park—off the grid—and got up at 2:30 in the AM after the moon set to do some stargazing. And it was in-fucking-credible. I’m not new to this, and have set late night alarms set to go catch a meteor shower, a space station passing, or a lunar eclipse. But last weekend’s pitch black and perfectly clear night might just take the cake for best star gazing I’ve ever done.

I only took mental photos, but they are fantastic. Now I want more. I might be making a trip out to West Texas in the next couple of weeks to take catch this spectacle before it’s gone.

Maybe I’m so interested in things like this because for my entire life my parents have made fun of the time in 1986 when, alledgedly, I “wouldn’t wake up” to see Halley’s comet while my family was at a friend’s beach house in South Africa, where the viewing conditions were perfect.

5-year-old-me “slept through Halley’s comet”, and now almost 35-year-old me is into going to great lengths to appreciate the stars—like by crawling out of a warm sleeping bag on a 29º night just to stare up at the sky.

Hopefully I’ll make it to July 28th, 2061 when Halley’s comet returns. But until then, the night sky is not lost on me.

This was my Facebook new years post this year:

Let’s make 2016 a lateral year.

Maintain the status quo. Stay in your comfort zone. Avoid challenges, and stay away from new experiences that might change you. Avoid vulnerability at all costs. Dare NOTHING.

Stasis is the magic word.

2015: You were a heartbreaker, and it’s been a fucking experience. But now I’m done with you.

2016: I’m coming for you.

The last couple of months here have been consumed with work, travel, and creativity. And not so much on the website updating, obviously. I finished up some pretty big projects last year that left me feeling burned out, and the feeling hasn’t really subsided. Way more into exploring places and writing music lately, but it all ebbs and flows.

So far 2016 is off to a solid start. I had a pretty fan-fucking-tastic trip to San Francisco and Tahoe over the New Year, best photos below.

Beauty. 😍⛷⛅️🏔

A photo posted by Jeff Keen (@jeffkeen) on

Other recent experiences documented on my Instagram.

There was a pretty cool reddit story the other day about an internet stranger casually solving a huge song mystery for another redditor. After a year of the mystery lingering, one day a stranger sent a link to the song, and it blew the original searcher’s mind.

Oh my god. Oh my fucking god. I’m actually freaking out.
Who are you? How did you know? WHAT IS GOING ON?
Thank you so much. But also, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON

And the kind stranger just responded with:

Shh bby is ok

And, just like that, a meme is born. The internet is amazing, sometimes.

But I can totally relate to the poster’s original excitement. Sometimes a song just gets under your skin, and you’ll do anything to find it. Before the modern internet, finally locating a song felt just as satisfying, and I remember distinctly trying to hunt down the following songs in the following ways, and feeling just as excited once each of them was in my possession.


“Girl I’m Gonna Miss You”, by Milli Vanilli. I’d hear this on the radio, and the melody line in the chorus (1m 24s) rocked my little 8 year old heart so much I just had to find the geniuses who created it.

I called up the local radio station and hummed the melody on the phone in order to figure out what it was. I was gifted the tape by a family friend shortly afterwards.

(And listen, I realized the error in my ways regarding Milli Vanilli not much later. We all did. We all did.)


“Incense and Peppermints” by The Strawberry Alarm Clock. I heard this song in Austin Powers, and it blew my teenaged mind. I wanted more. More Strawberry Alarm Clock.

I searched far and wide for a recording of this song during Christmas break of ‘97, and had to go up to the Sam Goody in The Mall Of America in order to finally find the truth: that there was no available back catalog of Strawberry Alarm Clock, that they were basically a one hit wonder, and I’d have to settle for the Austin Power’s soundtrack. Which I did.


I heard this song every so often on the radio for months and months and months, and it would haunt me. I wanted it. But every time, the DJ would say nothing about it. I delayed plans and waited patiently in my Mom’s 1995 Dodge Neon for a song set to end, hoping to get a clue about the song that had been captivating me.

I tried to savor every second the song was playing, knowing it might be weeks before hearing it again. At night after getting back on the 1998 internet in my parent’s basement, I’d Altavista the shit out of the lyrics that I scribbled down earlier in my pocket-sized memo pad.

I don’t even remember exactly how I ended up finding the song, but I do remember that when I finally did locate the MP3, it was named incorrectly. I went around for years afterwards thinking the song was called something else, but I was also thrilled to have it.


Yesterday, I held up my phone up for a few seconds and it identified a Barbara Lynn song from 1963 that was playing on the radio.

I was satisfied.

I have a hard time saying no. I still do it, but often times depending on the request, the lead-up to giving an answer is filled with inner turmoil.

First, I must seek out my true feelings on the matter: Do I really want to? What is my hesitation?

Then I do a brief to lengthy internal debate about the pros and cons of saying yes and saying no, and whether I should listen to my internal feelings, or set them aside this time.

“Will I be my best self if I say yes? Am I feeling compelled to say yes just so I don’t disappoint the asker? Have I said no enough times to this person so that if by saying no again they may feel compelled to never extend an invite in the future? Do I want that? Am I overthinking this entirely, and by just saying yes, I might do something that may be slightly uncomfortable in the short-term, but highly beneficial in the long-term? Would saying yes provide a more interesting story?”

This is my brain.

After reaching a conclusion internally, then it comes the matter of telling the person. How can I decline without sounding rude, and without sounding like I’m making too many excuses?

Well, found one.

There are other good ones here along with actual good advice on how to graciously turn someone down.

Along the same lines as my last post, some amazing human saved K-Mart store music tapes between 1989 and 1993, and recently put them on the internet. Put this in your ears, and remember the time when K-Mart was peaking.

Mark Davis, the aforementioned amazing human, writes:

I worked for Kmart behind the service desk and the store played specific pre-recorded cassettes issued by corporate. This was background music, or perhaps you could call it elevator music. Anyways, I saved these tapes from the trash during this period and this video shows you my extensive, odd collection.

Until around 1992, the cassettes were rotated monthly. Then, they were replaced weekly. Finally sometime around 1993, satellite programming was intoduced which eliminated the need for these tapes altogether.


There are some gems in here. The one I linked above, even. If you wait long enough, you’ll hear an in-store ad, which might be my favorite part of the deal. ATTENTION, KMART SHOPPERS!

A pretty fascinating slideshow of scenes from the mall in 1989.

I remember my local mall around that time, and parts looked a lot from these photos. What was different, though, is that instead of it feeling like this bizarre other-world as it does when looking at those photos, it felt like magic.

Everything is temporary, and nothing lasts.