UHO: Audio

This is part of a series about the Ultimate Home Office (UHO).

My audio setup is very important to me: on one hand, I have multiple podcasts, including Exponent, Dithering, and the Stratechery Daily Update Podcast, which means input matters, and I also listen to (non-vocal) music while writing, which means output matters. And, of course, there are calls and conferences.

Recording Mic(s)

My primary recording mic is the Shure BETA 87A Supercardioid Condenser Vocal Microphone.

Condenser microphones generally have better sound quality but are more unforgiving of surrounding noice than dynamic microphones; this mic, though, rejects almost all sound that is not straight on, making it ideal for a home office where there may sometimes be sounds you can’t control. I also like that it has a built in shock mount; external ones look cool, but just get in the way if you want to be able to actually use your computer while recording.

For travel I use the Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB Cardioid Dynamic Microphone, which is the updated version of the ATR2100 I used previously. What makes these mics so great for travel is that, unlike almost all other USB mics — and unlike my Shure — they are dynamic mics, which trades off top-end sound quality for much less sensitivity to surrounding noise. This is particularly useful for places like hotel rooms where it is even harder to control your sound environment. (The ATR2100x improves on the ATR-2100 by changing its USB-Mini connection for a USB-C one; everything else appears to be the same, which is perfect.)

Preamp

High-end mics, including my Shure, require a preamp to both power the microphone and convert its signal into something usable for recording devices, which in my case, means a USB interface.

I use a Sound Devices USBPre 2, which has no software to speak of, wonderfully smooth dials, utilitarian lights, and as many interfaces as you might like. I use three of them: XLR-in for the mic, 3.5mm out for my recording headphones, and a USB connection to the computer.

This is a pretty big step up from the Onyx Blackjack I used previously, but that didn’t handle the Shure well, and honestly, this is just better in every way. I’ve used it to record hundreds of podcasts, and have no reason to believe it won’t handle hundreds more.

Shotgun Mic

This is a new addition to my setup, thanks to Matt Mullenweg’s recommendation.

I will get to the camera part of this setup in the upcoming video section; for now I’m referring to the microphone mounted on the camera. This is the Sony ECM-B1M shotgun mic, and it’s honestly incredible. It has noise-canceling built-in, can be set to a supercardioid pickup pattern (which means it only collects sound from straight ahead), and while I wouldn’t use it for recording podcasts, it results in fantastic audio for almost all other applications. It’s better than a lavalier, AirPods, basically anything other than a proper mic right in your face…and it’s not right in your face.

Headphone Amp

This is a recent upgrade, the story of which I will get into in the headphone section. For now it’s enough to say I have the Schiit Jotunheim with Multibit DAC.

I previously had the Schiit Magni/Modi combo; I’ll explain why I upgraded below. Suffice to say this beast powers my headphones without a problem, and sounds incredible while doing so. Lovely knob-turning feel as well.

Headphones

So this is a bit of a saga.

I originally started out with the Sennheiser HD 380 Pro’s, which work great for podcasting; I eventually realized, though, that they are terrible for music. So, as anyone who wants to spend too money on what will certainly be the best possible solution is liable to do, I reached out to Marco Arment for a recommendation. After making clear I didn’t want to spend as much as he surely did, he suggested I go with the Jotunheim above and a mid-tier Hi-Fi Man set of open-ear headphones.

As hinted at above, I didn’t listen, at least not completely: I got the headphones he suggested, but went with the significantly cheaper Magni/Modi amp/DAC combo. Almost immediately, I got the sense that my headphones weren’t getting enough power — there was no increase in volume from about 50% on — but I pretended everything was fine.

Then, a few years on, I decided that I wanted to consolidate my headphone situation. I couldn’t use the open-ear headphones for podcasts, for obvious reasons, which meant I had two headphones at my desk; this time, determined to not short-shrift myself, I went with Marco’s top recommendation, the Dan Clark AEON 2 Closed Headphones (because they are closed they are usable for podcasting).

These are absolutely incredible. The jump from my mid-tier Hi-Fi Man headphones to these was just as big as the jump from the Sennheiser’s to the Hi-Fi Man’s. It also became extremely apparent that the Magni/Modi combo was woefully insufficient: the primary impact of the volume knob was crackling in the headphones, with very little difference in volume, and there was a low-level hum in the headphones when there was no music playing.

And so, in the end, I ended up with the Jotunheim after all, and am better for it. The Dan Clark’s are dead silent without music, and extremely loud with the volume turned up, and as I noted above, increasing or decreasing the volume is a delightful experience, not a painful one.

The problem, though, is that using a different amp for podcasting — the Jotunheim instead of the USBPre 2 — meant that I couldn’t hear myself while recording. I had two options: first, I could set something up in Audio Hijack to pipe the sound of my own mic into the Jotunheim, but at the same time I was increasingly using Zencastr for recording, and didn’t want to have to run extra software every time I recorded. That, by extension, left two hardware-based option: I could either plug the Dan Clark’s into the USBPre 2, which mixes in your mic with the output at a hardware level, or I could keep the Sennheiser’s at my desk just for podcasting. I went with the latter.

So yes, I ended up with the exact setup I started out with, just with a far more expensive amp and headphone combo! The sound quality, though, is honestly worth it. At least that is what I tell myself!

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: The Ultimate Home Office
  • Computing Setup: computers, power supply, monitors, keyboard, mouse/trackpad
  • Audio Setup: recording mic, preamp, shotgun mic, headphone amp, headphones
  • Video Setup: camera, lens, teleprompter, lights, green screen
  • Supporting Equipment: desk, light, chair, printer, mounts
  • Wiring: routers, switches, access points, chargers, cable management

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UHO: Computing

This is part of a series about the Ultimate Home Office (UHO).

The core of a home office, at least for someone at home on the Internet, is computers, and well, I told you I have gone overboard. My desk, if you squint, has multiple:

Computers

The center of my home office is a maxed-out 2017 5K iMac. I have been very satisfied with this purchase, at least until the last couple of months, when it seems like the fans have been spinning up more than previously. I suspect dust is the issue; it is so annoying that I am honestly tempted by the Mac Pro, but that seems foolhardy given the transition to ARM (also, the price). My plan is to stick with this computer indefinitely, but again, we will see how my recent purchase of compressed air works out.

To the left I also have a 2019 16″ MacBook Pro and a 2017 13″ MacBook Pro. I am not particularly happy with either of these computers:

  • The 16″ MacBook Pro was supposed to be my U.S. computer; I normally spend summers back in Wisconsin, but obviously those plans have been disrupted this year. The net result is that I have a computer that is almost completely unused, and hated when it is used — the Touch Bar is that bad.
  • The 13″ MacBook Pro was an emergency replacement for my 2015 MacBook Pro with a proper keyboard, which unfortunately met its demise when it fell out of my bag onto the pavement. This is the MacBook Escape version, which means it only has two USB-C ports, but also no Touch Bar, so it’s a wash. I actually use it more than the 16″ because it is far more portable.

I am also still using the original 13″ iPad Pro. My only use cases are were watching basketball and baseball and making the illustrations for Stratechery; I would like one of the new Pros, for the industrial design if nothing else, but it is hard to justify the purchase (yes, I get how absurd this sounds given the rest of my setup).

Monitors

I have two 24″ LG UltraFine 4K Displays attached to the iMac. I run these at an upsampled resolution that matches the 5K iMac, giving me three screens with the same effective resolution; the fact that these two monitors are closer to me overcomes the fact they are smaller, and the upsampling isn’t noticeable to my eyes (on the other hand, I originally tried to run the iMac with my old Thunderbolt Display, and couldn’t handle the juxtaposition of retina and non-retina).

I really like this setup — if anything, I wouldn’t mind having two more 24″ displays. I prefer having different applications in defined places, as opposed to managing multiple desktops or even overlapping windows. Currently, the monitor to my right has all of my messaging applications — Slack, Teams, iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, Line, Messenger, and Zoom — and the monitor to my left has TweetDeck, notepad applications, and when I’m actually writing, spillover browser windows. The iMac, meanwhile, displays whatever I am actually actively focused on at the time (usually email, OneNote, or my text editor).

Power supply

The iMac and one of the LG’s (the one with a hard drive attached to it) are plugged into a CyberPower UPS System; this only keeps the computer running for 10~15 minutes in a power outage, but that is more than enough time to shut it down safely, which is the point. I’ve only ever had the power cut out for a few seconds, though, and it held up admirably.

Keyboard

I am a devotee of the original Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard; Marco Arment has a great review here. I love how the keyboard actually slopes down away from you, and while I originally found the function-keys-as-buttons-instead-of-keys strange, I like that quirk: it makes accidental input impossible.

The primary downside of this keyboard is that it wears out after about a year, which requires planning ahead:

Note the date on that tweet — I dug into the stash exactly a year later, not because I spilled, but because the keys were getting mushy.

Mouse/Trackpad

My primary pointing device is the Sculpt Mouse that comes with the Sculpt Keyboard. It fits my hand well, and I like how the scroll wheel works in both vertical and horizontal directions. And, as an added bonus, I don’t need to deal with either bluetooth latency or an additional RF dongle.

I also have a Magic Trackpad, primarily for editing podcasts; nothing beats pinch-to-zoom in an audio editor; I also use it if my mousing wrist is ever bothering me, but that is pretty rare.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: The Ultimate Home Office
  • Computing Setup: computers, power supply, monitors, keyboard, mouse/trackpad
  • Audio Setup: recording mic, preamp, shotgun mic, headphone amp, headphones
  • Video Setup: camera, lens, teleprompter, lights, green screen
  • Supporting Equipment: desk, light, chair, printer, mounts
  • Wiring: routers, switches, access points, chargers, cable management

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The Ultimate Home Office (UHO)

I started working from home in 2013, and furnished my office with a $5,000 stipend from Automattic. I bought a standing desk, chair, light, and Thunderbolt Display, along with the various bits and pieces necessary to make everything work together. Over the intervening years I have slowly augmented and/or replaced the pieces of that setup, until today, only the desk remains.

That augmentation has taken a big leap forward over the last couple of months, thanks to the coronavirus crisis. First, I joined a large conference call with a lot of folks I didn’t know, and I was pretty embarrassed at how terrible I looked on my iMac’s built-in camera: it was both low quality and, given how far away the iMac sat on my desk, far too zoomed out. Second, I was asked to speak at Kellogg, and was pretty frustrated at the iPhone-camera based setup I jury-rigged: yes, it was better than the iMac camera, but it wasn’t at-all easy-to-use, particularly on short notice.

This led to a project to dramatically upgrade my video setup, and frankly, I went overboard. It was fun, though, and my rationalization is that, thanks to the coronavirus crisis, I’m spending a lot less on travel than I might have otherwise, so might as well spend on my home office. That doesn’t completely explain all of the gear I bought that went beyond video, but hey, this is what I do for a living — everything is expensible!

To that end, over the next few weeks, I’m going to break down the equipment that goes into the ultimate home office. Again, my setup is overkill, and was accumulated over years, which is another way of saying that I have spent an embarrassing amount of money on my office, and I’m somewhat sheepish about it, but again, this is what I do for a living, and if you want any ideas on how to make your setup better, this series of articles is for you.

Here is a preliminary table of contents; I’ll make these into links as I fill out the series:

  • Introduction: The Ultimate Home Office
  • Computing Setup: computers, power supply, monitors, keyboard, mouse/trackpad
  • Audio Setup: recording mic, preamp, shotgun mic, headphone amp, headphones
  • Video Setup: camera, lens, teleprompter, lights, green screen
  • Supporting Equipment: desk, light, chair, printer, mounts
  • Wiring: routers, switches, access points, chargers, cable management

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“Wireless Is a Trap”

From LessWrong:

I used to be an anti-wire crusader. I hated the clutter of cables, and my tendency to unconsciously chew on them if they got anywhere near my face. But running into bug after tricky wireless bug—mostly while trying to make my video calls work better—I’ve apostasized. The more I’ve learned about wifi, Bluetooth and related protocols, the more I’m convinced that they’re often worse, on net, than wires…

Wifi (and bluetooth, etc.) sucker you in by making it seem like they “just work.” But if you investigate, you’ll often find that the wireless link is operating in a degraded state that performs much worse than a wired equivalent. Since this degradation is silent, it’s often not obvious that the problem is the wireless—instead, you’ll probably conclude that it’s your device/software/self…

Recently, I finally ragequit and replaced all my desk’s wireless devices with wired ones. While I had to invest a bit in figuring out cable management (and break my habit of chewing on headphone cables), I was able to achieve nearly the same level of tidiness, with much better reliability, quality and speed. I no longer have to worry about my equipment failing to pair, running out of battery, or spontaneously giving me garbled robot voice during a livestreamed talk. It’s dramatically reduced my level of device-related agony.

To illustrate the degree of agony I’m talking about, below I’ll cover some of the subtle, hard-to-notice but severe problems I’ve run into with wireless protocols. If you’re convinced, try out some wires—you, too, can figure out whether you’ve been a victim of the wireless trap.

Wireless is a trap, LessWrong, June 7, 2020

I am a huge believer in wiring everything to the greatest extent possible (and having multiple wifi access points for things like phones that are wireless only). I just did a rough estimate, and my desk alone probably has around 50 wires in and around it, which yes, means a lot of work when it comes to cable management. It is well worth it though.

A good number of those wires, by the way, are new: the combination of finally settling in a place I don’t plan on moving from for a while, along with the increase in remote speaking and video conferencing because of the pandemic, started me on a crazy path towards building the ultimate home office for an Internet creator. Matt Mullenweg, meanwhile, had the same idea in terms of being a CEO, and blogged about it. That was part of what got me thinking I really should have a personal blog so that I could do the same. So stay tuned.

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What Is a Blog?

I happened to come across an old post of mine on Stratechery that is pertinent to this site:

When I speak of the “blog” I am referring to a regularly-updated site that is owned-and-operated by an individual (there is, of course, the “group blog,” but it too has a clearly-defined set of authors). And there, in that definition, is the reason why, despite the great unbundling, the blog has not and will not die: it is the only communications tool, in contrast to every other social service, that is owned by the author; to say someone follows a blog is to say someone follows a person (This applies both for amateur and professional bloggers; most of the rest of this post is concerned with the latter).

Blogging’s Bright Future, Stratechery, February 2, 2015

This is why you need to own your own name, and ideally, your software.

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Where to Blog

Inspired by the creation of this site, I declared on Twitter:

That led to a number of questions as to where one should create a blog; helpfully, I now have a blog where I can answer exactly these sorts of questions!

Before I get started, though, I need to give some necessary disclosure given the subject matter: I used to work at Automattic (the owner of the WordPress.com hosting service, and major contributor to the WordPress.org open source project), and Stratechery (and this site) runs on WordPress. On one hand, this is evidence that I follow my own advice; on the other, perhaps I am biased, but now you know why.

On to my advice:

Own your own domain

This matters far more than what service you use, because this is what allows you to switch between services in the future. If you have a Squarespace blog, but your domain is mysuperblog.net, you can switch to a WordPress blog and change where your domain points to (relatedly, you can also have an email address that is guaranteed to never change, even if you change email service providers). On the other hand, if you have a Medium handle, for example, you need to build your website’s identity from scratch when and if you want to move.

I would further suggest that you buy your domain independently from where you host your blog. Yes, Squarespace or WordPress or Wix all promise that you can point your domain elsewhere if you move your site (and of course you can always change your domain registrar), but part of what you are protecting yourself from is being too dependent on any one company.

In addition, don’t feel like you need a ‘.com’ domain; it is very hard to find one with a pronounceable name. The good news is that the huge expansion in generic top-level domain names means there are a lot of interesting names available, and most everything supports these names without an issue.

Have an open-source alternative

If your site is on Squarespace or Wix, but under your own domain, you can switch to another service like WordPress and still have the same address, but there is going to be a bit of pain involved if you want to keep your old content: you will need to export your content out of your old service and import it into the new one.

Moreover, there is no competition for Squarespace or Wix hosting: they are the only providers of Squarespace and Wix software, respectively. This is great as far as providing an integrated product goes, but in general it is not a good idea to be a customer of a monopoly (extremely narrowly defined, to be sure!), particularly for something you want to last your whole life.

Using a service that is built on open-source solves both of these problems: first, there is competitive hosting. Stratechery is currently hosted on WPEngine, but there are a host of competitors in the managed hosting space, and even more options when it comes to self-hosting. Moreover, you can run the entire service yourself on AWS, Digital Ocean, or even your personal computer.

This also means that if you are unsatisfied with your host it is easy to switch: not only can you change where your domain points, but it is far easier to seamlessly move content between servers, because they are all running the same software (this entire section, by the way, also applies to those who want to build their own CMS).

WordPress, I should note, is not the only option in this space: this post has a good overview of additional open-source CMSs, including Ghost, Drupal, Joomla, etc.

Consider optionality

If you are with me so far, we have established that the most important thing is to own your own domain (which rules out Medium and Substack, at least as far as a personal site is concerned), followed by using open-source software (which rules out Squarespace and Wix). To me that leaves two clear choices: WordPress and Ghost.

The fundamental premise of Ghost is that it is a drastically simplified and thus easier-to-use CMS for bloggers. WordPress runs all kinds of websites, and has the complexity that inevitably follows from so much capability; Ghost, by virtue of doing less, is easier to use, requires fewer resources, etc.

The problem — at least from my perspective — is that flexibility is optionality. If one day down the road you want your site to be something other than a blog, but you are using Ghost, you need to go through the same sort of transition process I described above. Sure, the reasons might be different, but the pain is the same!

That is why I have been and continue to be an advocate of using WordPress. Particularly with the Gutenberg Editor it is a pretty easy-to-use blogging set-up (yes, there is still a lot of cruft there), but you have the capability in place to do far more in the future. Moreover, the ecosystem of plugins and themes means the tools to do that future thing are probably already built. I’m no great shakes as a developer, but I was able to launch not just Stratechery but also the first version of the Daily Update thanks to this ecosystem of plugin developer and theme builders (today’s Stratechery theme was professionally developed, but that is another way of making a point about ecosystems — there are a lot of WordPress developers out there).

As to which WordPress host, WordPress.com is the best choice if you want long-term stability, but there are limitations as to what plugins you can install; paying for a managed service is a nice middle ground, and gets you out of the endless up-selling that can be endemic on “free” alternatives (Ghost also has a managed hosting option).

Again, I’m definitely biased about WordPress, but I think this combination of open-source and large ecosystem is really powerful. The entire point of having your own site is to be independent, but it is easier to be independent if you are one of many. At the same time, if you think an alternative is better, go right ahead — just get your own domain!

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Project Gutenberg

While the primary purpose of this site is to have a place to post things that don’t belong on Stratechery, I was also excited to use a fresh WordPress install with Project Gutenberg as the default editor.

To back up a bit, Stratechery uses the classic WordPress editor with a whole bunch of custom code, plugins, etc. It looks like this:

If you squint you can see that posts are written mostly in Markdown, with HTML added as needed. Yes, there is a rich text editor if you click the “Visual” tab, but it is firmly stuck in the last decade, and extremely inflexible. Stratechery is not a complicated site, but I couldn’t imagine not writing as close to the metal as I do.

Project Gutenberg, particularly at first glance, looks — and works — a lot like Medium’s editor:

The editing of in-line component happens via in-line menus that appear as needed:

Meanwhile, you can add different blocks on a per-paragraph basis:

There is a lot of controversy around Project Gutenberg, and I understand why. This is a complete transformation of the WordPress experience, and the changes extend down to the core of, well, WordPress Core. That means that a lot of work that came before to make the WordPress ecosystem such a valuable place to be is, if not obsolete, at least deprecated. I feel this pain! There is no chance that Stratechery will switch to Project Gutenberg anytime soon (there is a plugin if you want to use the classic editor).

At the same time, what is cool about blocks is that they provide a very powerful means to provide new functionality; right now plugins require all sorts of custom work that is difficult for developers and inscrutable for users. Blocks should make that a lot easier, and I suspect there is a lot of market share to be gained by developers who embrace the concept.

Still, this site is about the basics, and I haven’t installed any plugins, so I’m mostly speculating. What I can say is that, for the core out-of-the-box editing experience, Project Gutenberg is really, really good. Honestly, I’m pretty blown away. And that means that Project Gutenberg, despite all of the challenges presented by such a drastic change, is good for everyone, because I can’t see how it won’t lead to WordPress getting and keeping more end users.

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Welcome to monkbent.net

I’ve had lots of blogs through the years; while most faded away, the last one became so much more: not just a website but my career.

That, though, has left me without my personal home on the Internet. Stratechery is my life’s work, but it is not my life. This site is a spot for me to put everything else, should I choose. I don’t expect to post here very frequently, but I want it to exist.

Naturally, like Stratechery, monkbent.net is built on open-source software and has its own domain; no gatekeepers allowed. And the name…well I’ve always been terrible at naming things. ‘monkbent’ was my first handle on the Internet; like ‘Stratechery’ its chief attribute is that it existed when I needed it. So here we are, three decades later!

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Breaking Down the Father on BBC Being Interrupted by His Children

This post was originally published on Medium. Yes, I wish this site had existed then.

I’m sure there are plenty of videos that have gone viral faster, but given that my Twitter feed is a mix of journalists, tech analysts, and NBA folks, there seemed to be a special resonance to this clip of a father in South Korea commenting on the removal of once-President Park Geun-hye, only to be interrupted on live TV by his kids breaking into his home office.

If I might say so myself, I am uniquely qualified to break this video down: I’ve been on TV from a home office, I have children, and, crucially, I am a man (who like Robert E Kelly, our protagonist, lives in Asia). As you will see, that is the key to understanding how this went down.

The Room

The most important thing to notice about this quite nice home office, particularly for Asia (it’s really big!), is the stack of books on the bed over Kelly’s left shoulder. As should be rather obvious, those books aren’t there by accident! Kelly almost certainly placed them there for this interview; sadly, given the terrible compression applied to Twitter video, I have no idea what books they are, but rest assured they are very befitting Kelly’s position as Professor of Political Science at Pusan National University and BBC expert on South Korea.

The map on the wall is also a nice touch: this is a man who almost certainly knows his way around the globe, but a blank wall just doesn’t play well on TV.

There are two flaws, though, in Kelly’s premeditated presentation: one, the door is ajar. Obviously that will figure prominently. Two, on the left hand side of the screen something is intruding into the picture. I have no idea what it is; it’s just an excuse to explain that these interviews are done using the webcam in computer displays. It’s true! There is no cameraperson there; indeed, often you are looking into the camera and seeing nothing on your own screen. It’s really disorienting and honestly one of the reasons I don’t like doing these kinds of TV hits.

The Man

Robert E Kelly is a handsome man! He’s also dressed up for the occasion: as we will soon find out he is obviously at home, so why is he wearing a suit and tie? Because he’s going to be on the BBC, that’s why.

Kelly is an academic: according to LinkedIn he has his Ph.D. in Political Science from The Ohio State University. Being an academic is a very weird enterprise: Kelly went to Miami University in Ohio and The Ohio State University for a combined 12 years. After he received his Ph.D. he worked as a lecturer for The Ohio State University for two years, a fairly miserable existence that requires years of schooling yet earns the salary of a Starbucks barista (approximately). Then, somehow, Kelly hears the siren song of Asia and takes an associate professorship at Pusan National University in Busan, Korea (fun fact: Pusan and Busan are the same word; welcome to the wonderful world of romanizing eastern script languages).

The real payoff of all that education, though, is that Kelly is an expert. He contributes to the Economist, Newsweek, The Diplomat. And, of course, he appears on the BBC. Like a boss.

The Elder Daughter

We will get to the elder daughter’s dance in a moment; it’s absolutely delightful in a way that can only be truly appreciated by those of us that have daughters.

For now, the entrance:

  • I told you that open door was a problem
  • The yellow shirt: not a single person watching this clip can miss her entrance
  • The obliviousness: dad has absolutely no idea

This clip has no where to go but up.

The Dance

I love her.

The Acknowledgment

This is the point where Kelly becomes aware that his progeny is standing approximately 3 inches away from him. Horrifically, at least from his perspective, he is informed by the BBC anchor.

The Hand

This is where Kelly is getting the most grief on social media. The prevailing wisdom from folks who have never been on worldwide-TV-as-a-means-of-validating-12-years-of-academia is that Kelly should have gracefully placed his daughter on his lap and continued on with the interview as if nothing had happened.

Let’s back up.

What you may not know about these TV spots is that you don’t get paid a dime. Why, then, does the BBC, or CNN, or MSNBC, or all of the other channels have an endless array of experts who are willing to not just call-in from their home office but will also go to the trouble of putting on a suit-and-tie and arrange books just so? BECAUSE YOU’RE ON TV!

Here’s the deal: the male ego is both remarkably fragile and remarkably easy to satiate. Tell said ego he will be featured as an expert in front of a national or global audience and he will do whatever it takes — including 12 years of academia and wearing a suit at home—to ensure it is so.

The flipside of said ego-soothing, though, is a potential level of embarassment that is hard to fathom. In this case Kelly is fulfilling his self-selected destiny: he is appearing as an expert across the world on the BBC. But it’s not going well! His daughter has appeared, and while he certainly loves her, he must, MUST, keep up appearances. Thus the hand, and not the overt affection.

The Smile

Ignore the baby in the doorway, which is the most hilarious moment in one’s first viewing (but not necessarily on subsequent viewings; there’s just too much good stuff here to compete). I love Kelly’s smile here.

Look, I just explained in the last section that he is utterly mortified. Worse, the very foundation of his ego is at stake — he is appearing as an expert on the BBC and his kids are screwing it up. And yet, in this smile, you can see a father’s unadulterated love for his first-born — a daughter no less. That increases said love twofold. He knows the interview is already a mess, but he loves her, and I love Professor Kelly for it.

Also, his daughter DGAF. She just got the hand and reacted not with shock but by playing with her pen. She is awesome.

The Second-Born

We don’t know if the second-born is a boy or girl. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. All that we know is that after valiantly fighting off his first-born, who he loves, all of Kelly’s efforts are undone by the second-born that he probably doesn’t pay enough attention to, mimicking her older sister. It’s basically The Royal Tenenbaums brought to life.*

*That’s not exactly true, but The Royal Tenenbaums is both my favorite movie and the best-ever examination of first/middle/youngest dynamics, so I wanted to include it. Sue me.

The first time I watched this video (Disclosure: I’m up to 37x), this moment absolutely slayed me.

The Mom

This is the moment where this clip enters the pantheon of Internet viral videos. As usual, it’s the woman — in this case the mom—who makes it legendary.

But wait, was it the mom, or was it a nanny? This has been a point of contention on social media, but I’m pretty sure it’s the mom.

  • I have white American/Asian mixed kids, so I’m kind of a subject-matter expert, and these look like mixed kids
  • Most maids in Korea, like Taiwan, where I live, are foreign (often from Indonesia or the Philippines). This mom, though, absolutely looks east Asian — Korean, in fact. And, given that Kelly is paid in expertise, he probably can’t afford a Korean maid.
  • The desperation with which she enters the room is a desperation born of love, not duty. You can’t deny it! She wants her husband to look good; that’s why she flies in and, frankly, takes too long to get the kids out of there because she’s trying so hard. She cares too much.

Above everyone else, I feel for the mom (I’m assuming it was the mom from here on out). Yes, she was probably responsible for the kids during said call, but moms have a lot to do! And seriously, dad should have closed the damn door. She is going to feel absolutely awful for having upset his call, and you know what? I feel bad for her for her feeling this way. It was almost certainly an honest mistake.

Also, her pants may not be completely pulled up (as opposed to Kelly, who honestly, may not be wearing any at all).

The Technique

Look, for all the sympathy I just gave mom, she deserves some kudos as well: she just moved into the room, grabbed both kids, and then beat a retreat while barely showing her face. It’s impressive stuff.

Meanwhile, dad is apologizing for the love of his life interfering with his ego. MEN.

The Reach

I feel bad saying this, but this is probably the single most hilarious frame of the video. Dad has just apologized multiple times for the interruption, while mom is desperately trying to let him shine. It really is the reach, though, that makes it so spectacular.

SportsPickle nailed it:

This is why I’m all-in on mom: nannies don’t lay it out like this. She loves her man, she’s proud of his expertise, and she’s going to do everything she can to make him look good.


tweeted today, “There but for the Grace of God Go I”. You know what though? Being Professor Kelly seems like a pretty good gig: a nice house, a nice look, an irrepressible daughter, a shockingly mobile baby, and a wife that will do anything to help him succeed.

Plus he gets to be on the BBC.

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This is the end!