Kingmaker

When I was a little kid, my parents would occasionally take me to the Boston Whaler, a New England seafood restaurant located on the San Francisco Bay Area’s southern peninsula.   I suspect they were there because, East Coasters at heart, they were craving lobster. But, on the west coast of the 1980’s, with imported lobster far overpriced and even farther under quality, Alaskan King Crab legs was the closest they could get.

I’ve always been a big eater, despite my relatively small (5’6″, 145#) size; enough so that my family has long referred to me as the ‘garbage disposal’, willing to eat the leftovers off any of their plates. But I hadn’t yet garnered that reputation when, at the Boston Whaler, me all of two years old, my parents ordered a full additional adult serving of King Crab legs, and the entire waitstaff of the restaurant gathered round to watch this tiny tot siglehandedly polish off the whole thing. 

Back then, I certainly wouldn’t have paired those legs with shrimp, oysters and a stiff martini. But, in today’s world, there’s no better way to fix an afternoon that’s otherwise off to a terrible start.  

Weather or Not

One interesting upside of owning dogs is that I’m far more attuned to New York City weather than I was in my earlier, dogless life. Sure, a ten or fifteen degree swing makes some difference when you’re running from office to subway; but when you’re standing out in that weather for a solid hour, moseying slowly while two small canines consider where they’d most enjoy pooping, even a few points fahrenheit makes a huge difference. This morning, with temperatures unexpectedly back to the wintry 30s after a stretch of balmy spring 60s and 70s, I wished I’d brought along gloves and perhaps a hat.

But the arrival of spring is always a fraught time in NYC. After months encased in full-body cladding, we suddenly see pasty, puffy skin overexposed en masse. It’s a good time for gyms. While the rest of the country sees its peak gym attendance only at the start of the year, New York has a few other surges of gym attendance: one at the start of September, when everyone returns from the Hamptons with a sense of ‘back to school’ vigor, and another in late April / early May, when everyone realizes there’s perilously little time until they might need to show up in public in a bathing suit.

I’ve enjoyed watching restaurants, too, struggling each day to decide if they should open for dining outdoors, with chairs and tables appearing and disappearing. Granted, as a great New York Times piece observed a few years back, outdoor dining in NYC is still well short of the Continental ideal in even the best of circumstances: “nothing sauces roasted chicken like the exhaust from an M104 bus and there’s no music more relaxing than the eek-eek-eek of a delivery truck in reverse.”

So, with the weather swinging, we muddle through. Bundling up against intermittent cold, preparing to enjoy pending warmth. At some time in the next month, I’m sure the weather will hit its perfect, crisp spring ideal, holding there for a few weeks straight. It’s the time when I, and everyone else, thinks, “yes! this is why we live here!” Sure, after that brief interlude, the city becomes a humid, stinking, summer shithole, and we all fantasize about moving somewhere, anywhere else. But then, in the fall, we have another perfect, beautiful, crisp three weeks. Which carries us through the freezing, slushy winter to another year. Rinse and repeat.

All of which is to say, spring is (sort of) here. Let’s enjoy it while we can!

Naked

When you’re a kid, you have nightmares about showing up to school in your underwear.

In adult life, when the equivalent actually happens, it’s about as terrible as it seems in the dream.

But while you wake up from dreams, real life just keeps going. Eventually you just say to yourself, ‘I guess I’m at school in my underwear. But I still need to learn algebra, so I might as well get back to work.’

Buy a Journal

Helpful tip for new CrossFit (or other fitness regime) devotees, learned the hard way over a slew of years:

Do: keep track of your WOD, and of what you eat.

Don’t: do it on Facebook.

In the immortal words of Bill Murray, “unless you fell off the treadmill and smacked your face, no one wants to hear about your workout.”

Keyed Up

If you live in Gmail, like most people I know, two small tips that will change your life:

1. Go into settings, and on the General tab, about halfway down the page, choose ‘Keyboard shortcuts on’.

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There’s an awesome PDF of the keyboard shortcuts here, though you can access a cheat sheet at any time by clicking the ‘?’ key (i.e., shift-/).

Open a message by clicking the letter ‘o’, then head back up to the list of messages by clicking ‘u’.

While you’re reading a message, you can head to the prior one (‘j’) or the next (‘k’), or go forward and back while archiving the message you’re leaving (‘[’ and ‘]’ respectively).

Hit ‘c’ to compose, or ‘g’ and then ‘s’ to go to the starred folder, or ‘g’ then ‘i’ to go back to the inbox.

It’s wildly faster than mousing around, and worth the small amount of study time required.

2. Go into settings, and on the Labs tab, find and enable ‘Undo Send’.

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This one does pretty much what it says on the label. Once it’s enabled, after you send a message, you have five or ten seconds to click an ‘undo’ button that recalls the message before it goes out.

If you, like me, tend to notice typos, wrong names, wrong recipients, etc., only moments after you click the send button, this one is worth its weight in gold.

You’re welcome.

No Time for Wallowing

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Viktor E. Frankl

Long Haul

I did the CrossFit workout Fran today, and discovered that, by chance, I had done the same workout on the same date exactly ten years ago.

At that time, I was fairly new to CrossFit, just a couple years in, having before then jumped around between all kinds of approaches to working out. I remember, back then, wondering if I’d still be doing CrossFit a decade later, whether I’d still think it was the single best approach to building an exercise practice, the single most intelligent framework for defining and pursuing fitness in the gym and the real world.

Apparently, yes. After twelve years of CrossFit’ing, I’m still loving/hating every WOD, still making progress, and still thinking about the ever-longer list of skills I need to work on over the next ten years ahead.

If you don’t do CrossFit, you should. Whatever your level of fitness, you can jump right in. Seriously. Find a box near you, and go change your life.

Dotted Line

We’re counting down the last days of Passover, and none too soon, as I’ve started fantasizing about baked goods in idle moments. In honor of the holiday, thought it was worth retelling this classic joke:

Throughout his childhood, Bernie is obsessed with airplanes. By high school, he decides that he wants to be an aeronautical engineer and plane designer. He studies hard, gets into the best design school, graduates cum laude and, through years of hard work, begins to build a reputation as the US’s finest plane designer. Eventually, as his reputation peaks, the President calls.

“Bernie,” the President says, “we want you to build a fighter jet – cost is no object – but I want it to be, by far, the very best fighter jet in the world. ”

Ecstatic, Bernie goes to work, directing the entire resources of his company into this single project. After several months of tireless toil, Bernie shows a design so revolutionary that it draws universal acclaim. A prototype is built, yielding further adulation. Yet, on the first test flight, before the plane even leaves the ground, the forces are too great, breaking the wings cleanly off the fuselage.

Bernie is distraught. He completely redesigns the wing attachments, builds another prototype and attempts a second test flight. The same problem strikes. After a third time through the design-build-test-break cycle, Bernie is despondent.

Not knowing where else to turn, Bernie consults a rabbi. He pours his heart out. The rabbi deliberates.

“Listen,” says the rabbi. “I can solve your problem. You must drill a row of tiny holes directly above and below where the wing meets the fuselage. If you do this, I absolutely guarantee the wings won’t fall off.”

Bernie thanks the rabbi, but leaves disillusioned. The suggestion flies completely in the face of the laws of structural design. But after a few nights of fruitless brainstorming, Bernie decides he has nothing to lose. He builds another prototype, following the rabbi’s advice, drilling a row of holes directly above and below where the wings meet the fuselage.

Lo and behold, the test flight goes off without a hitch. The president is thrilled, an entire armada of Bernie’s planes are built, and Bernie becomes a living legend in the aeronautics community. Eventually, plagued by curiosity, Bernie returns to the rabbi.

“Rabbi,” he asks, “how did you know that drilling those holes would prevent the wings from breaking off?”

The rabbi smiles, then replies,

“Bernie, I’m an old man. I’ve been a rabbi for many years, and I’ve celebrated Passover every year of my life. And in that time, not once, NOT ONCE, have I ever seen a single piece of matzo break along the perforation. ”

Pesach sameach, everyone. Next year, in Jerusalem.

Elevator Down

Kortnie Coles, taking things seriously as ever at the Dobbin Clothing Spring ’15 photo shoot.

I couldn’t be prouder of Jess and her colleagues; the new line should be up for sale in the next few weeks.

Brick House

When people wax nostalgic for a simpler past, I often think about the huge improvements in the years since that we too easily ignore. Sure, life would have been an adventure in the Old West, or a quiet pleasure at Thoreau’s Walden. But if you’ve been hospitalized or had major surgery at any prior point in your life, odds are pretty excellent that, in those good old days, you’d be dead.

Of course, there are smaller advances than antiseptic, anesthetized surgery that still make life better. Consider Rebrickable, a site I recently discovered, that would have changed my life as an eight-year-old.

If you’re a Lego-loving kid, you probably have a bin full of pieces that you can create from as you see fit. But you’re also dying for you parents to buy you the pirate ship kit, or a castle kit, so you can follow directions, step by step, to something way more awesome than you’d figure out on your own.

Enter Rebrickable, where you can log the Lego kits you already have, and then download a nearly infinite array of the instruction booklets from other Lego kits you can build from your existing collection of parts.

If you’re missing a couple pieces for a project you want to take on, no worries; directly from the site, vendors will bid for the chance to send you those missing parts, one-off, on the cheap. Building that AT-AT is within a week’s allowance’s reach, rather than a full birthday off.