On the escape velocity from obscurity

I have written in earlier posts that to blog is to labor in obscurity. But now I feel much less obscure, thanks to this letter that arrived in my inbox at 10:46 PM, 2 Nov 2006:


thanks so much for the nice blog entry on my talk. you captured both
the substance and the spirit of my visit to the temple
it was a bit weird reading the blog and finding that you updated it
just in case i read it. well, i did and thoroughly enjoyed it.
it was good to meet you.

On Oct 31, 2006, at 12:46 PM, David Shields wrote:

> https://daveshields.wordpress.com/2006/10/31/kaddish

Ari L. Goldman
Graduate School of Journalism
Columbia University
2950 Broadway
New York, NY 10027


To paraphrase the last words of so many of the classic cartoon shorts of the 40’s and 50’s, “That’s it folks!” I have official confirmation that I have written a good blog post from a Professor of Journalism at Columbia University [2], a journalist who worked for two decades as a reporter for the New York Times, and a man who instantly knew the namesake of this blog when I mentioned its name. [3]

I no longer consider myself to be laboring in obscurity, and so can say on my first day of non-obscurity, “Hello world!”

A new blogger must come to appreciate the burden of laboring in obscurity. But since blogging is so personal I think each blogger gets to define what it means to escape from that obscurity.

I expect many bloggers would settle on a total number of views, while others would pick a certain number of average views per post.

But I measure my escape from obscurity by a velocity.

The escape velocity from the earth’s gravitational field is 11.2 km/sec. [4]

I sent an e-mail to Professor Goldman at 12:46 PM on October 31st. As best as I can tell no one read the post for the first day or so. However, I received his gracious response at 10:46PM on November 2nd, so it took exactly 58 hours to hear back from him. By Yahoo Maps I see it’s just over 35 miles by car from my house to his office, for a round trip distance of 70 miles in 58 hours, an average velocity just over one mile-per-hour. [5]

That is my blogger escape velocity — one mile-per-hour. Slower than a walk, faster than a turtle. Worked for me.

Thank you, Professor Goldman


1. See footnote [1] in Posts. I “unclaimed” Tom’s blog so the entries would be visible in case he looked beyond the Kaddish post, in the hopes he might tell Tom Friedman about this blog.

2. As I have previously mentioned, in the first post in this blog, I attended a NASA-sponsored course at Columbia in the summer of 1965. As part of the course I had access to the computer facilities, and one of my earliest efforts at programming was to write some code in FORTRAN to work out some of the exercises in Richard Bellman’s classic work on dynamic programming.

3. A. J. Liebling also worked for the New York Times, but for much less time than Professor Goldman. One of A.J.’s jobs was to report on high-school basketball games in Brooklyn. A.J. didn’t travel to Brooklyn — he had he thought better things to do — so he phoned up to get the score and wrote his story from that. An alert New Times editor noticed that almost all such games were refereed by “A. Ignotio” — Italian for “unknown” — and when A.J. confessed his sins he was fired on the spot.

4. Wikipedia is metric, while we in the U.S. still aren’t. For example, when we were investigating elementary schools for our first child, one guide told us in the hall in great detail that their school was teaching students the metric system, starting at the kindergarten level! As we neared the door of a classroom I heard a teacher say, “Two feet of snow in Chicago yesterday…. ” We moved on to visit another school.

5. I learned when speaking with Professor Goldman after his talk this past Sunday that, while his office is on Broadway, he lives on 116th street. My oldest daughter Alison went to nursery school at the Columbia Greenhouse, which is also located on the same block. Notable class parents included Telford Taylor, Columbia Law Professor and the Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, as well as Roland Betts, a friend since childhood of President Bush and also the founder of the Chelsea Piers complex on Manhattan’s West Side. Indeed, he got into that because his daughter loved to skate, and so he bought the Sky Rink near Penn Station when it was facing bankruptcy. Betts is a Yale graduate and is currently the head of Yale’s Board of Overseers, Yale’s governing body. He worked for the first few years after graduation as a teacher and then school administrator.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Columbia’s school of journalism (has any publisher yet attended it?), as reported in my post On the escape velocity from obscurity. […]

  2. […] Bloggers also labor in obscurity. See Security Through Obscurity. On the escape velocity from obscurity, and The Long March Up From Obscurity: Technorati Authority Now 40, Rank […]

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