Category Archives: Uncategorized

Giant cancer cell properties probed for potential treatment targets

Brown University scientists have studied giant cancer cells, seen in the middle of the image surrounded ...

As if cancer wasn’t scary enough already, it turns out the cells have video game-style boss versions that are bigger, more resilient and can travel further. These so-called “giant” cancer cells contribute to many of the disease’s most dangerous abilities, but they remain relatively unstudied. Now, researchers from Brown University have investigated these troublemakers, revealing some physical characteristics that could eventually unlock new forms of treatment.

Continue Reading Giant cancer cell properties probed for potential treatment targets

Category: Medical


Rosé payola: The dirty industry secret behind your favorite restaurant’s crappy wine

We’re in the dog days of summer when there’s nothing better than a chilled glass of pink-ish wine. And for the last few years, rosé has been the go-to summer drink for many an alcohol imbiber. However, the choices offered by many popular restaurants are just plain bad, and it turns out the reason you’re drinking them is because of the wine industry’s dark, deep-pocketed underblly.

A spicy–dare I say tannic–article in Bon Appetit, written by the beverage director of a popular New York restaurant, describes the dirty world of bad rosé racketeering. In short, suppliers of mass-produced vaguely light-red-colored wines are paying restaurants and bars to feature their products. It’s wine payola–and it’s been duping us all.

BA writes that these “bulk wine” distributors are on the lookout for any hot restaurant that may be interested in featuring their bottles. These bad beverages feature cheap grapes grown en masse, with little personality, which use yeasts and chemicals to make them taste at all palatable.

The distributors pimping these vintages are supposedly going to great lengths to get their products in thousands of glasses. The article explains:

“They might stop by, drop off a business card, send an email, and hint that they’d make it worth your while to add their wine to the list. A lot of these deals span the gray area of ethics, from direct cash incentives to trips, dinners, sporting game tickets, complimentary product, etc. Anything to get an edge.”

Another tactic these producers employ is offering to print menus for restaurants in exchange for them featuring their wine. Others offer paid for DJs to drop in to the spots that are, of course, also featuring the swill du jour. In short, there’s an underground economy of beverage directors and sommeliers giving up their palate and dignity to promote sour grape juice–all in the name of a few extra bucks.

You can read the full Bon Appetit story here.

We’re terrible at planning our time. Here’s how to fix it

How many hours do you work each day? If you’re like most of the U.S. working population, you probably think you get a solid eight hours in. That’s 40 hours a week. Around 1,800 a year (minus 2 weeks’ vacation). Not too bad.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that just because we’re at work for eight hours a day doesn’t mean we’re doing eight hours of work. (In fact, pretty much every statistic puts that number significantly lower.) Assuming you have more time than you do is the quickest route to stress, overwork, a lack of productivity, and eventually, burnout.

So, why does the myth of the 40-hour workweek still persist? And if we don’t have eight hours a day to do work, how much time do we actually have? At best, you have 2.5 to three hours a day to do focused work.

Let’s cut to the chase–psychologist Ron Friedman told the Harvard Business Review that most people “typically have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused.” Our own data backs this number up as well. When we analyzed over 225 million hours of working time, we found that the average knowledge worker (someone who deals with information for a living, like a writer, developer, designer, or manager), is only productive for 12.5 hours a week. That’s roughly 2.5 hours a day.

That’s a far cry from the 40 hours we all assume we have. So why are we overestimating our available time every single day? To figure this out, let’s make some gross generalizations about what the average workday looks like, what we want to do, and what actually happens.

Related: The weekly planning method for people who totally hate planning 

We were all hired to do some sort of core work

When you got hired, it was to do some specific task that you’re especially good at. Maybe that’s writing, or designing, or coding. Whatever it is, that’s what we like to call your “core work.”

If you were to plan a perfect week, you’d most likely schedule the majority of your time to do this type of work.

[Image: Rescue Time]

That’s in an ideal world. Instead, here’s what usually happens. First, add up all the time that you spent in meetings last week and subtract that from your 40-hour week. This number depends on your company size, culture, and job role. But let’s go on the low end and say 15%.

Next, let’s get rid of all the time spent doing the tasks that support your “core work.” This means communication and email.


[Image: Rescue Time]
[Image: Rescue Time]

In general, we’ve found that people tend to spend 25%–30% of their computer time at work on communication like email, work chat like Slack, or video calls like Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts.

Again, let’s be optimistic and only subtract two hours a day for communication.

[Image: Rescue Time]

Lastly, we need to talk about all that time spent working in a less than optimal way.

From our own research, we found that most people multitask during 40% of their productive time. It’s widely agreed that multitasking can have seriously negative effects on your ability to do good work. So let’s block those out as well.

[Image: Rescue Time]

And there we have it! A realistic week of work.

Related: Why the most productive people do these six things every day 

The problem with the planning fallacy (and why we always think we can do more than we can)

If your math works out like ours, you’ll end up with about one hour and 12 minutes a day for focused, productive work.

If you planned your day assuming you would have eight hours of time for productive work, and you end up with just over one hour, it’s going to be really frustrating.

Even worse, you’re going to keep adding more and more to your plate, thinking you have all this extra time to do “core work” each day.

It’s upsetting. But it’s also human nature.

For decades, psychologists have called this behavior the Planning Fallacy–our bias toward being overly optimistic when it comes to how much time is needed to complete a future task. In other words, we’re notoriously bad at looking into the future and figuring out how long a task will take us.

The Planning Fallacy has been blamed for everything from late midterm papers to billions of dollars of unexpected costs on airports, opera houses, and other development projects. It’s a serious issue, and one that we have to work through if we’re going to do good, focused, meaningful work.

So, how do we get over our optimistic bias?

We need to realign what we think we can do in a day and what we actually can do, which is no small task.

Here are a few proven ways to help yourself become more realistic about what can be done in a day.

Use implementation intentions

One of the biggest issues when it comes to planning our days is not taking the time to really break down what needs to be done. We all have good intentions. But research from the American Psychologist has shown that intentions only account for 20%–30% of our behaviors.

Implementation intentions are concrete plans that accurately show how, when, and where you’re going to do your work. So for example, instead of saying:

I’m going to write a blog post today.

An implementation intention would be:

I’m going to research and write the outline for a blog post on the planning fallacy from 9–11 a.m. Tuesday morning.

A good implementation intention also includes an “if-then” plan for when things go wrong.


If I get distracted while writing by a coworker, then I will ask them to come back after 11 a.m.

When researchers studied groups who had made implementation intentions like this, they found they began work on the task sooner, experienced fewer interruptions, and were better able to judge how long future similar tasks would take them.

Related: My first month using a paper planner after a decade drowning in apps 

Try the “100 blocks a day” method

Perspective is a powerful tool when you talk about scheduling your time. And just like we shower above when breaking down the average workday, you can do this for your entire day.

According to the writers at Wait But Why, if you sleep eight hours a night, that leaves you with about 1,000 waking minutes a day to schedule. Or, 100 10-minute blocks.

Lay those blocks out on a grid and ask yourself, how many are:

  • Put toward making your future better, and how many of them are just there to be enjoyed?
  • Spent with other people, and how many are for time by yourself?
  • Used to create something, and how many are used to consume something?

This isn’t necessarily a practice any (sane) person would go through on a daily basis, but the idea behind it is sound. Know you have a finite amount of time each day and see how many blocks you have.

Take an outside view

Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to give advice than to take it yourself? The same thing happens when we’re trying to schedule our time.

Studies have shown that the planning fallacy vanishes when you’re forecasting how long a task will take someone else. This is called taking an “outside view.” So, we’re overly optimistic with our own abilities and more realistic with others.

To get over this, you can use what’s called “Reference class forecasting,” which is basically a fancy word for switching your thought process from, “How long has this taken me in the past?” to “how long does this type of project take people like me?”

One of the most frustrating things about the modern workplace is not feeling like you’re making meaningful progress. And while you might get paid for 40 hours of work each week, you can’t realistically schedule 40 hours of work. We all have biases that get in the way of scheduling our days properly. Only by understanding and acknowledging them are we able to set ourselves up for success.

A version of this article originally appeared on RescueTime and is adapted with permission.

Four women sue Nike for violating equal pay acts

Four women have filed a class action suit against Nike for violating the Federal Equal Pay Act, the Oregon Equal Pay Act, and the Oregon Equality Act, the Oregonian reports. The lawsuit comes four months after the New York Times published an in-depth investigation into the sportswear giant’s toxic work culture, and five months after the resignation of its former president, Trevor Edwards.

The plaintiffs allege that Edwards was removed from the company for exacerbating and causing “a hostile workplace environment toward women,” according to the Oregonian story. One of the complainants, a former brand marketing director for, alleges that Nike paid her $20,000 less than a male counterpart who was doing the same work, the report says. When the human resources department took no action, she left the company for competitor Adidas. Another former employee—also a plaintiff in the lawsuit—claims in the suit that a male coworker acted hostile toward her when she rebuked his sexual advances.

The lawsuit suit did not ask for specific monetary damages, but demanded an injunction to stop Nike’s discriminatory work practices. As Fast Company‘s Liz Segran previously reported, Nike employees recently received an internal memo stating that the company was changing its compensation program to work toward their diversity and equality goals.

Wearable yeast colonies act as "canaries" for radiation exposure

Purdue researchers have developed a yeast-based badge that can help radiologists monitor their levels of radiation ...

The radiation dose of an x-ray scan is fine for patients getting them every now and then, but health risks stack up for radiologists who are exposed to it all day, every day. Layers of protective gear help, but now researchers at Purdue University have developed a living device for these workers, using yeast colonies in wearable patches to monitor how much radiation a person is being exposed to.

Continue Reading Wearable yeast colonies act as “canaries” for radiation exposure

Category: Medical


Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 and the triumph of the phablet

“When we first made the Note, not everybody knew what to make of it.”

It’s not often you see a tech company troll pundits about their past reactions to its products. But at Thursday’s Samsung “Unpacked” event in New York, the company led into its Galaxy Note9 unveiling with a video recapping some of the reactions to the original Galaxy Note in 2011. Back then, that model’s 5.3″ display seemed so spacious that many people looked at the Note as one part phone, one part tablet—i.e., a “phablet”—and questioned the whole idea. “Samsung has no idea what they are doing,” one 2011 commentator helpfully explained in Samsung’s recap. Another compared the phone’s oversized form factor to a piece of toast.

I recalled that initial skepticism, but what I didn’t remember was my own analysis of the first Note, which I saw for the first time when it was announced at the IFA gadgetfest in Berlin. So I pulled up my 2011 story and found that I was mostly respectful and even said I might like to own one. But I did add that “If you hold it up to your ear to make a call, you’re going to look silly.” Over at Time, my present Fast Company colleague Jared Newman reviewed and liked the phone but said the same thing: “You’ll also look a little silly making phone calls, holding the humongous Galaxy Note up to your ear.” Both of our reactions are eerily reminiscent of a sound bite in Samsung’s video: “The bottom line, you’re going to look really dumb holding this up to your face.”

Clearly, even people who weren’t instinctively anti-phablet didn’t anticipate the sort of success the Galaxy Note would have. (An earlier big-screen phone, the Dell Streak, briefly attracted a lot of attention but was clunky and short-lived.) The Note’s influence helped create a gravitational pull which led to most smartphones getting bigger over time—including, eventually, iPhones. Today, the typical smartphone is something that would have been considered a phablet in 2011. And at 6.4″, the screen on the new Galaxy Note9 is big but not bizarrely big by current standards.

Still, even though Samsung’s S9 and S9+ also have excellent, roomy displays, the Note remains targeted at the customers who care most about a phone’s screen, says Samsung senior VP Justin Denison, whom I chatted with after Thursday’s event. “Oftentimes, we refer to the Note’s screen as a canvas,” he told me. “What artist doesn’t want a larger canvas? Or what person who is on the go and trying and solve problems in their life, or be productive at work, what person doesn’t doesn’t want a larger tool, or a bigger capability, a better technology to get that done? So that canvas is what defines the Note.”

In the early days of the Galaxy Note line, Samsung scratched that itch primarily by making each new model noticably larger screen than the last, like a line of cars that gets more leg room with each new iteration. But as the maximum screen size of new Galaxy Note models started to reach equilibrium, Samsung curved the glass so the left- and right-hand sides of the display could run right off the phone’s sides, got rid of as much bezel as possible, and switched to a taller aspect ratio. This design evolution has resulted in this year’s 6.4″ Galaxy Note9 actually being narrower than 2011’s 5.3″ model, thereby preventing it from devolving into a hand-straining monster.

Along the way, Samsung also kept improving the Note’s Super AMOLED display technology, not only resulting in better image quality but also features such as the ability to jot notes with the Note’s S Pen even when the screen is turned off. “Even if the absolute screen diagonal didn’t change significantly from year to year, really underlying enhancements in the screen is where we focused on a lot of our energy,” says Denison.

It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see Samsung increase future Galaxy Note models’ screen sizes at least a skosh; even Apple is rumored to be working on a 6.5″ iPhone. Overall, though, the fact that the Note’s upgrade path has de-emphasized additional screen acreage in favor of more refinement has been healthy. As Galaxy Notes have become less of a novelty, they’ve become substantially better phones.

When the Galaxy Note was a novelty, that term—”phablet”—was everywhere. (I’m not sure who coined it or when, but AndroidGuys’ Scott Webster used it in a post in June 2010—well over a year before the announcement of the first Galaxy Note—and sounded like he had just come up with it.) It was a silly-sounding name for a class of phones that many people considered to be silly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if phablet haters were far more predisposed to use it than phablet lovers—even though I heard people in Samsung’s employ bandy it about back in 2011.

In 2018, phablet-sized phones dominate the market, but the term itself has largely fallen out of use. This Google Trends chart, showing searches for the “phablet” from the first Note’s launch to the present, tells the story.

[Data: Google Trends]

Normally with a chart like this, the gist would be that decreased use of a search term indicated that people had lost interest in the subject. With consumer technology, however, the fact that folks stop talking about something is often a sign not that it’s failed, but that it’s everywhere and therefore not worthy of mention. The phablet class of phones which Samsung kickstarted with the Note didn’t merely become popular. It came to own the market so decisively that it’s nearly a synonym for another word we still use all the time: “smartphone.”

Apple is wrong to keep Alex Jones’s InfoWars app alive

Yesterday I asked Apple a simple question: Why did you ban Alex Jones/InfoWars’s podcasts but not the iOS app, which contains the same odious content and clearly defy the company’s own guidelines?

No response from the usually-responsive Apple PR people. Apple gave a generic-sounding statement to BuzzFeed News that doesn’t seem to answer the question:

“We strongly support all points of view being represented on the App Store, as long as the apps are respectful to users with differing opinions, and follow our clear guidelines, ensuring the App Store is a safe marketplace for all. We continue to monitor apps for violations of our guidelines and if we find content that violates our guidelines and is harmful to users we will remove those apps from the store as we have done previously.”

I downloaded the InfoWars iOS app yesterday and used it to listen to Jones’s live broadcast. I then listened to parts of the rebroadcast, which became available in the app soon after the live broadcast was over. For comparison, I then tracked down and listened to one of the Jones/InfoWars podcasts. Like many broadcast personalities, Jones simply repackages his live shows as podcasts. It’s the same content. Why would Apple ban the podcasts but not the app?

The main subject in yesterday’s show was, of course, Big Tech’s merciless gagging of InfoWars, which, we’re told, is the exclusive source of the information that will save democracy. Jones and his cronies (alt-right social media star Mike Cernovich and Trump strategist Roger Stone) have been quick to seize on Jones’s newfound martyrdom, saying the gagging of other “conservative” voices is coming next.

On his show, I heard Jones say the InfoWars app is ranked number one in both the iOS and Android app stores. The app has become much more popular over the past few days as people rush to download it before it’s banned, and it did go from #47 to #3 in the News category at Apple’s app store, and it did rise to the number one “trending” app at the Google Play store, but it wasn’t the number-one app at either store or even the number-one News app at either store.

The point here is not that Jones lies and spreads disinformation. There is no language in the App Store guidelines that squarely addresses that. But there is language that prohibits many of the things Jones routinely does on his show. From Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines: (I included the language that applies to Jones in red. I left out the part of the guidelines that don’t apply to his content. Ellipses indicate that the guideline continues.)

1.1 Objectionable Content

Apps should not include content that is offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust, or in exceptionally poor taste. Examples of such content include:

  • 1.1.1 Defamatory, discriminatory, or mean-spirited content, including references or commentary about religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, national/ethnic origin, or other targeted groups, particularly if the app is likely to humiliate, intimidate, or place a targeted individual or group in harm’s way. Professional political satirists and humorists are generally exempt from this requirement.

  • 1.1.2 Realistic portrayals of people or animals being killed, maimed, tortured, or abused, or content that encourages violence . . .

  • 1.1.3 Depictions that encourage illegal or reckless use of weapons and dangerous objects, or facilitate the purchase of firearms.

  • 1.1.5 Inflammatory religious commentary or inaccurate or misleading quotations of religious texts.

  • 1.1.6 False information and features, including inaccurate device data or trick/joke functionality, such as fake location trackers . . .

The decision to ban the InfoWars app is a question of consistency. It doesn’t make sense to ban the Jones podcasts yet leave the app available. One observer suggested that the live broadcasts streamed through the app are fluid and harder for Apple to monitor. That may be true but, as I point out above, the recording of the broadcasts are available immediately after the live show. Another observer pointed out that Jones and his staff may be carefully selecting non-offensive news articles to post to the “News” section of the app to avoid banning. That may be, but Jones’s own words on the broadcasts are enough to justify removal of the app.

Is this about free speech? Unavoidably, yes. Alex Jones and InfoWars are a hard case, because while much of the content is false and offensive, it isn’t so extreme or dangerous (i.e.  he doesn’t publish directions for making dirty bombs, or call on his listeners to murder abortion doctors) that concerns over First Amendment rights recede into the background. Jones’s free speech rights are important, because the way InfoWars is treated could affect the way that other edgy political content is treated.

On the other hand we live with a market-based economy. If Apple chooses not to support the InfoWars app on its platform, users are free to access the content from some other source, like the InfoWars website.

You’ll notice in the guidelines above there’s a mention of political satirists and humorists being exempt from some content rules. Some in the Jones camp have suggested that his content falls under those labels. It’s a stretch. There is little humor in Jones’s broadcasts, and when there is it’s lacerated with hate. It’s humor against someone. Is Jones doing satire? Ask the parents of the Sandy Hook shooting victims if it’s satire. Ask them if Jones is “humorous.”

Tim Cook and Apple have worked hard to communicate what the company stands for. It’s not been shy. Why is it suddenly hedging? It seems inconsistent with other Apple stances.

There’s plenty of precedent at Apple for removing apps. It’s banned plenty of fart apps, but somehow truly odious stuff like Jones’s hatred, racism, disinformation, and conspiracy theorizing is left to thrive in the App Store. Please, Apple, do the right thing and ban it.

Rubik's Cube steps into the digital age, complete with online battles

With full Bluetooth connectivity, online battles, games and learning aids, GoCube brings the Rubik's Cube into ...

Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik’s famous puzzle cube has been around for 44 years now, but never like this. The GoCube is a Bluetooth-connected Rubik’s Cube dripping with sensors that teaches you how to navigate its 43 quintillion permutations and lets you battle other cubers online.

Continue Reading Rubik’s Cube steps into the digital age, complete with online battles

Category: Games


Despite Facebook’s crackdown, activists still plan to protest white supremacy this weekend

For months, activists have been planning a big counter-protest to the Unite The Right white supremacist rally this Saturday on the one-year anniversary of Charlottesville. They were busy promoting the event, securing a location, and coordinating their activities when they were presented with a new hurdle last week—the allegation that they were Russian bots.

One of the accounts shut down by Facebook in its recent crackdown on pages allegedly created by Russian-linked trolls was Resisters, which had created a Facebook event promoting the Unite The Right counter-protest. But soon after it was created, local real-life organizers had taken over planning and promoting the event. Yet Facebook still deleted both the Resisters Page and the upcoming event, claiming that they were affiliated with Russian propaganda efforts.

That didn’t stop the organizers, who say that the counter-protest is still going forward. How they rebounded from the negative media coverage and kept going involved a mix of creative decision-making and resourcefulness, organizers tell Fast Company.

On the original event page, about 2,000 people indicated they were interested in attending the counter protest, as well as 600 who said they were definitely going, according to Washington DC Black Lives Matter organizer Makia Green. With its removal by Facebook, local organizers like Green had to try and find other ways to reach those 2,600-plus people.

They made a new event page, which received over 1,500 RSVPs in two days. They mobilized with other local groups to make sure all were in lockstep. And they’ve been trying to shift the media narrative for the past week—away from a Russian bot intrusion and toward their goal of promoting the counter-protest.

And they’re upset about how the whole situation has been handled by Facebook. Though the company claimed that the dozens of accounts it shut down had “coordinated inauthentic behavior” and touted its proactive stance in advance of the midterm elections, organizers feel that Facebook didn’t do its due diligence on Resisters.  “There could have been a lot more investigation,” Green tells me. Instead, Facebook seems to have discovered a potential bot account that was associated with a group of activists, and then killed the pages it was allegedly involved with. Local organizers, says Green, were not contacted by Facebook and were not aware of any such inquiry.

Facebook, according to CNN, claims that it informed the organizers about the suspicious accounts. The Huffington Post reports that some organizers received vague emails that looked spammy, which appear to be Facebook’s only attempt to contact them.

What makes this ordeal even more bizarre, is the fact that the evidence linking Resisters to Russian actors is quite thin. According to the Huffington Post, the alleged smoking gun was that Resisters had a co-administrator who may have been linked to the Russian troll farm, the Internet Research Agency. But this alleged foreign account was only an administrator of the account for seven minutes—and Facebook won’t reveal when this took place beyond saying it was “back some time ago.” Despite only spending less than ten minutes as a leader of the group, Facebook still decided to take down the entire Resisters page.

Writes CNN:

Facebook said the “Resisters” page, which organized the “No Unite the Right 2” event, recruited real activists who “unwittingly helped build interest in” the event” and posted information about transportation, materials, and locations so people could get to the protests.”

Yet, according to Green, that’s not the case. “All the content [on the event] was created by us,” she says. “It wasn’t a case of another account used all of our work… We took over this event page and have been responsible for all of the organizing.” Facebook’s decision, she says, “disconnected us from 2,000 people.” It also impacted the DC groups because “we’ve had to field so many requests we’re not Russian bots.”

“At the end of the day,” she goes on, “white supremacists are still organizing.” So activists around the country are continuing to fight back, claiming that this is just another example of Facebook hampering a local political movement. “There is a history,” says Green, of Facebook targeting certain groups associated with the left and anti-racist movements as not in line with its community standards. “These white nationalist accounts,” she says, “they are not taking down.”

For now, Green and her fellow activists are working on last-minute preparations for both a counter-protest and a civil disobedience demonstration planned on August 12 in Washington, DC.

“The action is going to happen with our without Facebook,” says Green.

Lisa Brennan-Jobs: 7 revealing tidbits from her new book “Small Fry”

Her character was prominent in Aaron Sorkin’s movie Steve Jobs–the precocious little girl whose father, the cofounder of Apple, kept denying he was her father. In Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s new book Small Fry, she describes life with her struggling mother, Chrisann Brennan, while her mysterious millionaire genius father popped in and out. Brennan-Jobs tells her story in a literary style, with a frankness that works well with the subject matter. Here are some of the pithiest snippets, taken from a recently published excerpt at Vanity Fair.


In the spring of 1978, when my parents were 23, my mother gave birth to me on their friend Robert’s farm in Oregon, with the help of two midwives. The labor and delivery took three hours, start to finish. My father arrived a few days later. “It’s not my kid,” he kept telling everyone at the farm, but he’d flown there to meet me anyway. I had black hair and a big nose, and Robert said, “She sure looks like you.”

The Lisa

During the time my mother was pregnant, my father started work on a computer that would later be called the Lisa. It was the precursor to the Macintosh, the first mass-market computer with an external mouse—the mouse as large as a block of cheese. But it was too expensive, a commercial failure; my father began on the team working for it, but then started working against it, competing against it, on the Mac team. The Lisa computer was discontinued, the 3,000 unsold computers later buried in a landfill in Logan, Utah.


Until I was 2, my mother supplemented her welfare payments by cleaning houses and waitressing. My father didn’t help. She found babysitting at a daycare center inside a church run by the minister’s wife, and for a few months we lived in a room in a house that my mother had found on a notice board meant for women considering adoption. Then, in 1980, the district attorney of San Mateo County, California, sued my father for child-support payments. My father responded by denying paternity, swearing in a deposition that he was sterile and naming another man he said was my father.

Visits from Jobs

We skated the neighborhood streets. Trees overhead made patterns of the light. Fuchsia dangled from bushes in yards, stamens below a bell of petals, like women in ball gowns with purple shoes. My father and mother had the same skates, a beige nubuck body with red laces crisscrossed over a double line of metal fasts. As we passed bushes in other people’s yards, he pulled clumps of leaves off the stems, then dropped the fragments as we skated, making a line of ripped leaves behind us on the pavement like Hansel and Gretel. A few times, I felt his eyes on me; when I looked up, he looked away.

Bedroom Demo

One afternoon around this time my father brought over a Macintosh computer. He pulled the box out of the backseat and carried it into my room and put it on the floor. “Let’s see,” he said. “How do we open it?” As if he didn’t know. This made me doubt he was the inventor. He pulled the computer out of the box by a handle on the top and set it on the floor near the outlet on the wall. “I guess we plug this in.” He held the cord loose like it was unfamiliar. He sat on the floor in front of it with his legs crossed; I sat on my knees beside him. He looked for the On switch, found it, and the machine came alive to reveal a picture of itself in the center, smiling.

Ghost of Lisa

By then the idea that he’d named the failed computer after me was woven in with my sense of self, even if he did not confirm it, and I used this story to bolster myself when, near him, I felt like nothing. I didn’t care about computers—they were made of fixed metal parts and chips with glinting lines inside plastic cases—but I liked the idea that I was connected to him in this way. It would mean I’d been chosen and had a place, despite the fact that he was aloof or absent. It meant I was fastened to the earth and its machines. He was famous; he drove a Porsche. If the Lisa was named after me, I was a part of all that.

Near the End

I tiptoed into my father’s room, careful to step over the creaky floorboard at the entrance. This room had been his study, when he could still climb the stairs, but he slept here now. He was propped up in bed, wearing shorts. His legs were bare and thin as arms, bent up like a grasshopper’s.”Hey, Lis,” he said. As I came into his room, he was getting into a standing position. I watched him gather both his legs in one arm, twist himself 90 degrees by pushing against the headboard with the other arm, and then use both arms to hoist his own legs over the edge of the bed and onto the floor. When we hugged, I could feel his vertebrae, his ribs. He smelled musty, like medicine sweat.

Jobs died of pancreatic cancer on October 5, 2011.

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs will be published by Grove Press on September 4, 2018.