Podcast: Disarm

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 1
Ron Rosenbaum – Disarm

Our first guest of 2013 is Ron Rosenbaum, one of my favorite living writers! This episode of The Virtual Memories Show is The Bomb!

I’ve been a fan of Ron’s writing (let’s call it “literary journalism”) since reading Long Island, Babylon (originally titled The Devil in Long Island) in The New York Times Magazine nearly 20 years ago, so having him on the show is a big honor for me.

Our conversation focuses on his most recent book, How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III, and what he learned in the course of researching the present danger of nuclear conflict. (It’s a pretty harrowing — and very important — topic, folks.) From there, we discuss Ron’s body of work, his literary influences, Nixon’s final lie, what he thinks of Harold Bloom, his opinions about contemporary literary journalism, and more.

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more!

Ron Rosenbaum on The Virtual Memories Show

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Born in Manhattan, Ron Rosenbaum grew up on Long Island, got a degree in English literature from Yale, and dropped out of Yale Graduate School to write. Ron’s other books include Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil, The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Public Fiascoes, Palace Coups, and The Secret Parts of Fortune: Three Decades of Intense Investigations and Edgy Enthusiasms, a collection of his essays and journalism from The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Esquire, The New Yorker, The New York Observer, and other publications. I highly recommend all of them; in fact, I have extra copies of The Secret Parts of Fortune at home and in my office, just in case I feel like reading one of what Errol Morris calls “metaphysical detective stories.” You can find Ron’s current work at Slate, where he’s a columnist, and Smithsonian Magazine, where he’s a National Correspondent. He’s currently at work on two new books.

Credits: This episode’s music is One of Our Submarines (extended mix) by Thomas Dolby. The conversation was recorded at the Inn on 23rd in New York City, on a pair of Blue Encore 100 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the other material on a Blue Yeti USB mic into Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo courtesy of the receptionist at the Inn on 23rd, whose name I didn’t catch.

Far From the Tree

To quote Kip Dynamite, “I love technology.”

I’m not a super-geek, but I am a geek. I admit it. I like neat gadgets. During our trip to Louisiana last weekend, my mother-in-law asked me how I knew about the Kindle and the iPad and all this technology. I was stuck for an answer. I couldn’t exactly say, but I also couldn’t imagine not knowing about this stuff.

Along those same lines, my father-in-law is really good at carpentry, home repair and the like. I play along, but feel pretty inadequate about my own skills in that field. But when I installed a wireless router at their home last Christmas and tried to explain how to troubleshoot it, his whole tone of voice changed and he sounded . . . pretty much what I sound like when he starts talking about carpentry.

Now, it’s not like I’m always buying the newest and greatest stuff. I don’t play video games (I have too addictive a personality), I never adopted Blu-Ray, and most of my computers are from Apple’s refurbished store (same warranty, decent discount). And I tend to ride devices into the ground. I virtually never trade up unless a device is near the end of its service life. This has put me in a conundrum.

I use an iMac for my desktop computer at home. It’s a 24″ refurb model from mid-2007 and it runs perfectly fine (although it’s a little pokey trying to deal with my ridiculously outsized iTunes library). Amy uses it for her photo processing, and I do writing, research and general webbery on it. It’s outlived its 3-year AppleCare warranty window, but doesn’t show any sign of impending failure.

I’ve been pretty happy with the old machine, and figured I could keep riding it for another year or two, but I’ve just discovered that this computer is too old to run Lion, Apple’s new OS.

That’s right. Mr. Tekmology owns a machine that’s too antiquated. So now I have to decide whether I should pick up a new (refurb) iMac just to be able to use all these neat features. Can I just keep rolling along with the perfectly functional oldster, or will I start giving it resentful looks, irked that it can’t keep up with the hot new model?

(Cut me some slack: my old man’s mid-life crisis consisted of motorcycles, Corvettes and 18-year-old hairdressers, okay?)


While trying to find some info on my current iMac, I found the site where Apple keeps a list of all the devices I’ve registered with them over the years. (If you have an Apple ID, you can find yours at supportprofile.apple.com) Holy crap, has it been a pricey decade:


  • iPhone 4
  • Macbook Air (11-inch Late 2010): I managed to get $500 in trade-in value from Tekserve for my old Air, so this model didn’t cost me too much.
  • iPad 3G: two (Amy deserved one, too)
  • iPhone 3G: two (ditto)
  • iPod classic 160GB (Late 2009)
  • Macbook Air (13-inch Early 2008)
  • iPod 5th Generation (Late 2006)
  • iPhone: one (first-gen)
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch Mid 2010): for Amy
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch Core 2 Duo): two (I sold one to my boss; I can’t remember what became of the other one)
  • iMac (24-inch Mid 2007): this is the desktop computer that appears to be just too old to run the new OS
  • Mac mini (Early 2009): two (they were on sale in the refurb store; I gave one to my mom and use the other one to rip DVDs and serve up music & movies to my Apple TV)
  • iSight: camera for my OLDold iMac
  • iMac G5 (20-inch): the aforementioned old iMac. I gave this to my brother a few years ago; it melted down after around 7 years of use, which is pretty impressive
  • iPod (Click Wheel)
  • PowerBook G4 (12-inch DVI): I still have this 12″ PowerBook. I break it out once a year to print labels at our annual conference. The screen grows dimmer each year. It also weighs around twice what my current Air weighs
  • iPod (10 GB with Dock Connector): This one is lying on the floor of the WABAC machine.

The 10gb iPod cost $299 back in mid-2003. It was the third generation of the device. That was the model with the buttons that had slightly raised rings around them and red lights for the icons. It was, at the time, the greatest thing ever. My current iPod has 16 times that storage space and cost less.