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

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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.


I stood with a family member this week, she said I write a lot. I guess I do; in the last five days I've written thousands of words about my life, poems, prose.

Where is all this stuff? I'm experimenting with new forms! Longer incubation periods! Revising and editing!

Someday it will all be here.

The news in July on is that I revised the blog to take out old stuffs, revised the top bar of photos to feature Instagram pics instead of Flickr pics. I revised my sidebar pic to be a fun instagram shot from the streets of San Francisco - thank you Steve Rhodes!

I posted a prominent link to my first Kindle-published eBook A Story of GameLayers, I'm working to better understand how online booksales work. Clearly you need to write good product, and then you need to do smart marketing. Back in 1995 I gave a talk at the Rand Corporation about the removal of the middleman, and the power of direct publishing enabled by the web. It's fun to see that coming to fruition!

If the ebook is priced at $2.99, I make $1.95 off each ebook. I've set up some paid search advertising to spend up to $1.50 on each click. We shall see if this results in net profit! This is the type of thing I've learned more about since working in the social games business. Paying less to acquire customers than the customers generate in revenue! Huh!

In this case, customers are readers, and readers are co-sojourners on this temporary earth residency I've taken up. So I'm grateful that folks might give me their money, sure, and even more grateful to have anyone's attention.

Progress through Life

Today I attended an online seminar from "The Energy Project" - a pleasant reminder to set goals, and to make time for important but non-urgent stuff. Making sure the non-squeaky wheels get greased, so you can roll towards big things you want to accomplish.

Afterwards I took a few moments, sequestered myself in an ngmoco:) conference room, and assessed my progress through life thus far.

- Survived family suicide, business failure, divorce
- Learned to be a decent lover, host and accomplice
- Created a crazy thing online
- Experienced minor fame
- hosted TV
- Published a well-received book
- Rubbed brains with deeply smart folks
- studied to a Graduate level
- Lived abroad, widely traveled
- Home ownership
- Had an idea, raised money, started and ran a company as CEO

- Connecting and empowering people
- Expressing myself
- Sharing what I have learned
- Becoming a father with a good mother

- Saving money
- Learning how to organize and motivate global high-tech knowledge workers
- Growing older
- Dating a young positive creative woman

at work at ngmoco looking grumpy I guess

Here's a picture of myself for context - where I work, and the frumpy expression on my face as I was using my computer.

backposted surging

I read an old poem aloud this last weekend to a group of friends during a burlesque show and enjoyed myself. Here 'tis!

unsettled by roiling surging, backposted to 11 September 2011

in search of Middle Eastern Music

Posted a writeup my search for Middle Eastern music!

record label for Hanan and Feyrouz - Rhumba

Including an MP3 of the song on this 78 RPM record shown above :-D

Just In Tokyo: Ten Years On

This week I received this nice testimonial to my now-antique 2002 guidebook Just In Tokyo:

I ran across your Just in Tokyo book a number of years ago before my first trip to Tokyo. I had a 27 hour layover in Tokyo and wanted an adventure. I had little advanced notice and wasn't able to secure any type of hotel reservation before boarding the plane. Your book and very little cash was all I had.

The experience turned out amazing. In my time, I hit many of parts of town you referenced and stumbled into Shunjuku Green Plaza about 2AM and that was my home for the rest of the night. Fortunately I had no tattoos. What an amazing experience. I did everything there was to do there. I don't think anyone made eye contact with me the whole time.

I'm back in Tokyo today on business. I pulled out your book again and read it on the plane. It cracks me up.

I just thought I'd write and say thanks.

This comment from Preston Gregg who has a site called Thanks Preston! It amused me to put the book together, and I'm glad it amuses you still.
just in cover art by wilson kello
Just In Tokyo is now ten years old; out of print on Amazon, but you can read more about the book here on my site and you can find a free PDF to download here. Kanpai!

Handling Lessons

I took a painkiller on an empty stomach before wading into a wet city. It's a good thing to have a pleasant numbness growing in my stomach as I wait for a seat at a crowded restauarant's table. Cooking I miss from before I hurt my shoulder but even now sling free I haven't attempted that again. In my memory I handle cooking like I handle many things - moving fast and keeping as much in the air as possible. That my ability to catch falling objects is impaired by injury feels something like a life lesson.

Handling Lessons

I took a painkiller on an empty stomach before wading into a wet city. It's a good thing to have a pleasant numbness growing in my stomach as I wait for a seat at a crowded restauarant's table. Cooking I miss from before I hurt my shoulder but even now sling free I haven't attempted that again. In my memory I handle cooking like I handle many things - moving fast and keeping as much in the air as possible. That my ability to catch falling objects is impaired by injury feels something like a life lesson.

new medical drama!

herchurch visit

Back in December 2011, I had a chance to visit San Francisco's giant purple sanctuary: herchurch, where they challenge the largely testicular character of most Christianity.

herchurch front


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.