Back in 2002, I wrote this about my grandmother Anita:

My 80-year-old grandmother makes me look like a slacker and a lazy bum. This is a woman who, living down near Gramercy Park, will regularly walk the hundred block round trip to the Guggenheim Museum. This is a woman who, late in life, returned to NYU not only for a college degree, but for a masters as well. This is a woman who, throughout her 60’s and 70’s, worked at a day facility caring for drug addicts and the mentally disturbed. This is a woman who, now, volunteers at the senior center assisting people ten, fifteen years younger than herself, with absolutely no sense that by all rights she should be the one in the chair being spooned jello rather than the other way around.

And, most recently, this is a woman who, having decided she missed out on her Jewish heritage by not having a bat mitzvah at the customary age of twelve, took it upon herself to learn Hebrew, and, some 68 years later, is holding the traditional ceremony this evening. I’ll be in the audience, wishing her well, and hoping that I inherited some of those genes.

In 2009, I had this update:

On Saturday afternoon, I got a call from my aunt, who was in midtown. By chance, she’d run into my grandmother.

At the time, my grandmother was midway through her afternoon walk. Nearly forty blocks from her apartment where she’d started. Less than five months after she’d been hospitalized and wheelchair-bound for a fractured pelvis.

And, on this, her 94th birthday, I’m thrilled to say she’s still at it. Still sharp, still living on her own in her apartment here in NYC.

I called her mid-morning to ask what she might want for a birthday lunch.

“French fries,” she told me.

Any specific restaurant she had in mind?

“Oh,” she said, pausing. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I was just imagining the french fries.”

We eventually decided on Petite Abeille, an easy jaunt from her apartment. And, indeed, she was pretty psyched about fries. As soon as we’d been seated, a waiter came over to ask if he could get us anything besides water while we looked at the menu.

“I’d love a coffee,” I replied.

“And I’ll take a side of french fries,” she added.

Normally, this is a woman who eats half an apple for lunch. But, today, she was in birthday mode, and socked away all of her order of fries, as well as half of the fries that came with my burger, as well as pretty a gigantic chicken club.

That was apparently more than enough, however; by the time the waiter offered a comped birthday dessert, she couldn’t even look at the menu.

Still, I was thrilled to celebrate with her, and lucky, as ever, to get her wisdom and perspective – after 94 years of living and learning and adventuring, she has amazing insight on so many aspects of life.

So, happiest birthday wishes, Grammy. I (and all of your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren) love you lots.

Bullets, Pages

Though you don’t hear about it much from new-fangled growth hackers, the old-school ad-men I know often discuss the concept of ‘effective frequency’: the number of times a person needs to be exposed to a marketing message before they respond.

The idea is a long-standing one, dating back at least to 1885, in Thomas Smith’s Successful Advertising. As he puts it:

The first time people look at any given ad, they don’t even see it.
The second time, they don’t notice it.
The third time, they are aware that it is there.
The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it somewhere before.
The fifth time, they actually read the ad.

Etc., etc. Smith goes up to the twentieth time, which is when he suggests that someone actually buys. Though, for a century and a half, business-focused academics have researched and debated the number of exposures needed, generally settling somewhere between three and seven.

I say this because, over the past decade, I’ve come across both Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages and Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal more than a handful of times each. But it was only this past week, rediscovering them both, that I decided to make the leap.

Last Monday, I broke out a Moleskine (A5, dotted) and a fountain pen, resolutely ignored my long-governing Todoist task list, and hopped head-first into analog life.

A week in, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. The Morning Pages take a full half-hour of scribbling; more than long enough to cramp up my writing arm and shoulder, and to make me wonder if I’m pissing that time away with nothing but three ramblingly scrawled pages of daily nonsense to show for it. Similarly, I’m not sure whether I’m getting more or less done with the Bullet Journal than I was before.

But I do think that, with the Bullet Journal approach, I feel a bit less weighed-down, less put-upon by my to-do backlog than I do when using Todoist. And I’ve found that, if I hop into a meditation session immediately following the Morning Pages, the cloudy surface of my brain settles a bit faster, let’s me more easily reach a point where I feel like I’m looking down through the clear, calm waters of my mind, into the depth below.

So, for the next week, at least, I’m sticking with it. If nothing else else, it leaves me covered with all kinds of interesting fountain-pen ink smudges. And I have a vague sense, perhaps without enough marketing exposures to yet bring it to top of mind, that indigo blue is the new black.


It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since 9/11. This morning, I went to a memorial service with Jessie, and looked hard at the pictures there of first responders who died when the towers collapsed. I tried to imagine their families, the lives and dreams that were taken away from each of them. I thought about what the city was like that day, and what it was like in the weeks and months and years that followed.

Five years ago, I wrote a piece here reflecting on the tenth anniversary of 9/11; I’m posting it again today. Never forget.


On September 11, 2001, I came into my office early, to follow the market, to watch the tech bubble slowly implode on the monitors in our bullpen that perpetually played CNBC and CNNfn.

I can picture our small company that morning, gathered in twos and threes around those monitors, as video played and replayed the first plane crashing into the North Tower.

We were still gathered around those monitors when the second plane hit, as we slowly realized that neither strike had been a mistake.

We were still gathered around those monitors, an hour later, when the South Tower collapsed.


Shortly after the second plane hit, I called my parents’ house in California. My father picked up. “I’m okay,” I told him. “I just called to let you know I’m okay.”

“That’s great,” my father said, still asleep, not understanding why I was calling. “I’m okay, too,” he said, before hanging up.


We were evacuated from the office before the second tower came down. We were a half block from Grand Central Station, and police feared an attack on that similarly iconic target.

Still, after I made it downstairs, I stood on the street corner by our office for at least fifteen minutes, looking downtown, watching smoke billow. Gusts of wind brought an acrid smell, a fine coating of ash.

I worked the game theory in my head: my apartment, nearby, was across the street from the United Nations, clearly unsafe. Some of my office-mates were headed to an evacuation center the city had set up at a West Side high school. But any terrorist group sophisticated enough to mastermind this complex an attack would have also known where large groups of evacuees would be directed by city plan, where they would gather as sitting ducks.

I stayed away from my home and from the evacuation centers. I stayed away from crowds, from city landmarks. I headed west, then north. I stayed away from the tall buildings of Midtown, from the crowds of Times Square, from picturesque Columbus Circle and Central Park.

By quiet side streets, I headed up to Harlem. There, I wandered, dazed, from one block to the next, listening to the news with groups gathered around radios on old buildings’ front stoops.


Late in the evening, I headed back towards my apartment, showing my ID to dozens of policemen as I inched closer to the UN.

Along the way, I reached my parents again briefly. Now, understanding, they were effusive in their relief.

Once home, I fell asleep nearly before my head hit my pillow. I slept badly, fitfully. And briefly: we were evacuated from the building early the next morning.

I headed to work, but after an hour, we were evacuated from there, too.

For days in a row, I was evacuated from one, and then the other. Unsure of what to do, I wandered the streets, still dazed. I considered heading out to relatives in New Jersey or on Long Island, but transportation was a mess. Besides, though I had only been here for three months, I already knew that New York was my city. I couldn’t simply leave it behind.


Months later, I was asked to contribute photos for a gallery showing of young New York photographers reflecting on the city in the wake of 9/11.

I thought about that week wandering, about how little I remembered of it. Where had I gone all day? What had I thought about?

I made two images for the show.


I visited my brother, a freshman at the University of Denver.

A woman who checked my ID there saw I was from New York and asked if I had been in the city during the attacks. I had, I told her.

“Even if we weren’t there, all of us were New Yorkers that day,” she said.


On the first anniversary of 9/11, I headed to the roof with my trumpet and played Taps facing downtown. I read the Mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer of remembrance.

I did that each year, until the fifth anniversary.

On the sixth, I didn’t.


In the wake of 9/11, we came together in a way that still awes me: with heroism, generosity, and community. We love our country. And, even if we don’t always show it, we love each other.

Yet much of what has come after 9/11, of what has been done in its name, has troubled me deeply: from the security theater of the TSA and the Orwellian Department of Homeland Security, to the serious violation of citizens’ civil rights by programs like the CIA’s warrantless wiretapping and the even more serious violation of others’ human rights at Guantanamo and through programs like extraordinary rendition.

We’ve slid slowly towards a security state, yet we remain ultimately insecure. We’ve run afoul of framer Benjamin Franklin’s cutting remark: that “they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

We’re now permanently at war. We piss away lives and hundreds of billions of dollars yearly, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and elsewhere. We have no clear objectives there. We have no clear exit criteria.

Like Britain during the Boer War a century before, we’ve spread ourselves too thin, have begun to underfund crucial long-term investments at home, like education, infrastructure, and scientific research, in favor of fleeting yet ever-expanding pursuits abroad.

Historians often argue it was the Boer War that ultimately ended the British Empire; I wonder if, a hundred years from now, historians will reflect similarly on our War on Terror.


A few weeks ago, Air Force pilot Chris Pace contacted me about a 9/11 fundraiser bike/run he was doing to benefit the Disposable Heroes Project, a nonprofit that supports wounded veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq, where he had done four tours of duty.

His plan was simple, albeit vaguely insane: leave Arlington Cemetery by bike on the evening of Friday, September 9th, bike 150 miles, then dismount in New Jersey and run 100 miles, all without stopping to eat or sleep, to arrive in New York City on the morning of September 11th.

He had been training for this simply by doing CrossFit workouts. So, he wanted to know, would it be okay if he used my gym, CrossFit NYC, as the endpoint of his run?

Obviously, I said yes. But I also thought about the patriotism and generosity and welcoming sense of community, that feeling of being in it together, that had made me proudest in the wake of September 11th.

So, this morning, I woke up at 4:30am, and met Chris (and his support crew) as he crossed the Verrazano Bridge into Brooklyn, to welcome him to New York, and to show him our support, by running with him for the final 12 miles.


After we made it to the gym, after we hooked Chris into an IV to rehydrate him, then packed him into a car to his hotel so that he and his crew could get some much-needed sleep, I hailed a cab home.

The driver asked what I had done that morning, so I told him. I told him about Chris’ 250 mile trip, about my joining him for the last New York stretch.

“Your friend,” said the driver admiringly. “He is very strong.”

Yes, I agreed.

“Not just body strong,” said the driver. “Strong in heart.”

The driver told me he was from Mauritania. And that, back there, ten years ago, his brother had similarly biked a 150 mile round trip, to and back from the capital. But there, he said, nobody had been proud; instead, they had been angry.

“We thought it was embarrassment!” he laughed. “We say, who bike 150 miles? Only poor people who have no car!”

But now, this driver told me, he thought about that differently. He thought about a lot differently. For ten years in the US, he had been able to consider his country from a distance. And he’d been able to consider this one with an outsider’s eye. He told me that each had good and bad. And that, for those ten years, he had thought carefully about where there was more bad, where there was more good. And, earlier this year, he had become a citizen of the United States.

Sounds Right

A decade or so back, I spent the better part of a year bouncing between New York and Israel, helping to produce a soccer documentary as a side project to my regular, fiction-focused movie work at Cyan.

The experience taught me more than I can possibly express, whether about the realities of Israeli life, the socio-political complexities of Arab-Israeli relations, or even just the beauty of a well-played soccer match.

Also, it taught me the correct way to pronounce “Adidas.”

Before the trip, like most Americans (or, at least, most Americans who grew up on Run DMC’s “My Adidas”), I thought the name was pronounce uh-DEE-da.

At a slew of Adidas-sponsored soccer matches, however, I quickly discovered that the brand is actually short for the name of its German founder, Adi Dassler, and is therefore pronounced AH-dee-dass.

Back here in the US, that information is actually a step below worthless, down somewhere near psychologically damaging. Because, now, stripped of my ignorantly mispronouncing bliss, I’m subjected to a moment of internal battle every time I say the word. Do I pronounce “Adidas” right, but sound wrong (and possibly stupid) to American ears, or do I pronounce it wrong, but sound right (yet know that I’m actually both wrong and pandering)?

Indeed, it turns out international travel and language-learning is a nearly endless font for this kind of danger. Sure, your Italian bread-top appetizer is ‘broo-ske-ta,’ but you sound like a pedantic asshole if you call it as much. And what about ‘forte’? Though almost all Americans pat themselves on the back for pronouncing it with the Italian ‘e’ at the end, when used to mean ‘strength or talent,’ it’s actually a French import-word, and therefore rightfully (though wrong-soundingly) pronounced ‘fort.’

Fortunately, Google seems to be intent on destroying the Zagat brand, which takes at least one painful pronounciation choice off the table. But for countless others, I just have to muddle through, choosing whatever seems like the lesser of two evils at any given moment.

And now – at least for Adidas (and bruschetta and forte) – you do, too.

Wincing at the Beautiful

by Paul Hostovsky

So my friend Phil is telling me how
he can’t get a date
how he loves women and how
they’re always giving him looks
so I ask him what kind of looks
so he winces at the beautiful
braless young woman passing by
at that particular propitious moment
giving her a look of such
longing and longevity
that she returns his look with a look
that kills his entire family tree
from the roots to the unimagined
blossoms of the great grandchildren shriveling
on his shriveling bough
and I think I’ve diagnosed his problem now
and I think of quoting some lines from Rilke
but on second thought I think
a sports metaphor might serve him better
so I steer the conversation round to basketball
and the three second rule
which says you can only stand inside
the key for three seconds
before they blow the whistle
they’re just blowing the whistle on you Phil
for breaking the three second rule
for standing there with your eyes
popping out like basketballs
it’s a game like any other I tell him
then I ask him if he wants to score
and now that I have his attention
I throw in those lines from Rilke
I tell him that beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror
we’re still just able to bear
and the reason we adore it so
is that it serenely disdains to destroy us
and he winces again and this time
it’s at the beauty of those lines
or maybe their truth which hits him
like a three-pointer now
that Rilke hits all the way from Germany
at a distance of a hundred years

Note to Self: Get Moving

The founder and VC Marc Andreesen once observed that “entrepreneurs are congenitally wired to be too early, and being too early is a bigger problem for entrepreneurs than not being correct.”

Indeed, if you look at a slew of new industries, the current 800-pound gorilla in the space wasn’t the first-mover. Facebook was predated by Friendster and Myspace, Google by Yahoo, Lycos, and Alta Vista.

At the same time, an ‘overnight success’ usually takes about ten years of hard work. So when a startup appears at just the right time, it’s often no longer really a startup, already several years into it’s path of consistent, quiet growth. In other words, though you don’t need to be the first to win an emerging industry, you do probably need to be relatively early, substantively innovative, and excellent at execution. You need to get started on a new idea before it’s widely recognized as the inevitable future, and then you need to fight to entrench your company in the order of things.

So I didn’t panic eighteen months back, when another company raised tens of millions of dollars behind an idea similar to Composite; they’re delivered as a B2B HR service, rather than a direct consumer business, and we’re intending to entirely bootstrap rather than raise external dollars anyway. And I kept my cool twelve months ago, when a major fitness magazine penned an article on emerging fitness trends, which nailed (admittedly individually, rather than as cohesive whole) at least 2/3 of the ideas that underlie Composite.

But in the last few months, I’ve continued to see more and more indications that we’re not the only ones starting to toe our way around some new, big ideas in the fitness, health, and behavioral medicine space. The time, clearly, is now. Composite team, let’s get to work.

Basically, Darwinism

Let me let you in on a little secret: if you are hearing about something old, it is almost certainly good. Why? Because nobody wants to talk about shitty old stuff, but lots of people still talk about shitty new stuff, because they are still trying to figure out if it is shitty or not. The past wasn’t better, we just forgot about all the shitty shit.

– Frank Chimero

Get (Jump-)Started!

For the past six months, I’ve been working quietly on Composite, my next startup. It takes what I learned over a decade of building CrossFit NYC into the largest CrossFit gym into the world, and pairs it with the power of technology and a bunch of new research in sports science and behavioral medicine.

Eventually, Composite will be a ‘clicks & mortar’ hybrid: a chain of real-world gyms paired with a dedicated app that helps members continue to improve their health outside of the gym with the same kind of accountability, expert guidance, community, and competition they get in class.

Thus far, I’ve been testing out Composite’s ideas one-on-one, with private training clients. (And, though I’m pretty booked on that front, if you sign up here and mention you came from my blog, I’ll do my best to wedge you in.)

Now, however, we’re trying to kick things up another level, and I could really use your help:

1. If you live in NYC, we’ll be beta-testing group classes this fall, a couple of times a week, in spaces around the city. If you might be interested in attending a class, come sign up for updates about classes and I’ll keep you in the loop.

2. Additionally, we’re launching a free, online 14-day Jump Start course, with short daily assignments (around topics like exercise, movement, mobility, nutrition, sleep, lifestyle, and more) designed to help you build some new, science-backed health and fitness habits. I’d really love your feedback on the course, so please sign up, try it out, and let me know what you think.

Huge thanks!


Despite having lived in NYC for more than 15 years, I’d never made it to one of the Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare in the Park plays. I had, on occasion, tried for tickets through their online lottery, though without luck. But it wasn’t until this week that I decided enough was enough, and blocked out an entire morning to sit in the ticket line of Central Park’s Delacorte Theater.

Though the hardest-core fans will sometimes camp out overnight to stake a place early in the line, I had read that showing up at 8:00am – for a box office that opens at 12:00 noon – would at least make getting tickets highly likely. So, early Tuesday morning, I trekked up through Central Park with the dogs, heading past the 70th Street top of our normal off-leash loop, the full mile-and-a-half jaunt to the Delacorte. By 8:15am, the line already snaked a quarter mile along one of the park paths, with people seated on beach blankets and lawn chairs, reading and catching Pokemon.

An hour or so later, Jessie came up to meet us. The dogs having sufficiently sniffed everyone waiting nearby, I left her behind to hold our place, and looped back down to drop them at home, then headed up to meet her once again. She, in turn, departed an hour later, and I tapped away the remaining wait on my iPad, until finally – and just barely – making the cut for a pair of tickets around 12:30pm.

That evening, we headed back to the Delacorte, with plastic cups and a bottle of wine poured into a plastic water-bottle. (Outside food is permitted, though not glass botttles.) Though the tickets had been given out randomly, we’d still managed to end up in the cheap seats – the very back row, only five or six chairs away from the rightmost edge of the amphitheater.

No matter. Because the play itself was truly excellent. I’d never seen Troilus and Cressida before, hadn’t even read it, though I knew it’s reputation as one of Shakespeare’s least often staged, and most problematic, plays. The plot draws from The Iliad, focusing in on a short portion of the Trojan war, with a distinctly anti-Homeric, almost existential disdain for heroes and greatness. And though the play is often critiqued for it’s wide swings from slapstick drama to dark tragedy, Daniel Sullivan’s extremely modern direction still drew it together into a wonderful, cohesive whole.

For the first act, much of the credit for that went to the cast. House of Cards’ Cory Stoll, playing Ulysses as a civilian military advisor, a Greecian Karl Rove in a business suit. Izmenia Mendes’s Cressida, delivering one of the plays most famous lines, “Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing,” as a Brooklyn hipster’s take on a The Rules approach to wooing men by playing hard to get. Or Alex Breau channeling a Keanu Reeves surfer-dude into the dim-witted yet self-impressed Ajax.

For the second, it was thanks to the staging itself, battle scenes played out with explosions and blank-firing machine-guns, Shakespeare by way of Zero Dark Thirty. When the play ended, almost literally with a bang, after three and a half hours, I had been riveted the entire time.

Sadly, the Public’s run of Troilus and Cressida ends this Sunday. But if you live in NYC, and you’re reading this before then, I highly, highly recommend playing hooky for the morning, and braving the line yourself. It’s certainly worth the wait.

Golden Brown, Part IV: Make Like a Fern and Stay

Thus far, we’ve looked at why getting some sun is actually good for you, how to wisely choose and apply sunblock, and how to time your sun exposure to allow the maximum number of hours outside.

Today, however, we’ll be working from the inside out, starting with Polypodium leucotomos, a green leafy fern found in the wilds of Central and South America. Polypodium initially evolved as an aquatic plant, before a changing environment forced it to adapt to life on land. Unable to leverage the sun-blocking effects of water-cover as it had when it lived underwater, the fern instead evolved to produce powerful antioxidants that offset the free-radical damage of all-day above-water sun.

As recent research has shown, those fern antioxidants work nearly as well inside of you, too. By taking pills that contain Polypodium leucotomos extracts, like Heliocare or Solaricare, you can triple or quadruple your natural resistance to burns. In other words, if it might normally take you 15-20 minutes to scorch at a given UV intensity, you could instead hold out for a full hour.

And while, in most cases, that’s not enough to supplant sunscreen, given how quickly sunscreen sweats and washes off (as previously discussed, ‘waterproof’ sunscreens are designed to weather just 40 minutes of swimming and sweating), a belt-and-suspenders approach seems like reasonable insurance.

Pick up some Heliocare or Solaricare, pop one in the morning, and another before and every few hours during your time in the sun. If nothing else, you can offset the $20 cost of a bottle by the money you’ll save on aloe vera. (Which, as we’ll see in the next installment, doesn’t really do much of anything anyway.)