Posts from Random Posts

Being Pampered

My daughter Jessica gave me David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again for my birthday and I've been reading the essay that gives the title to the book this week. This bit has been rattling around in my head since I read it a few days ago:

… so I come out and spot my duffel among the luggage, and I start to grab and haul it out of the towering pile of leather and nylon, with the idea that I can just whisk the bag back to 1009 myself and root through it and find my good old ZnO and one of the porters sees me starting to grab the bag, and he dumps all four of the massive pieces of luggage he’s staggering with and leaps to intercept me. At first I’m afraid he thinks I’m some kind of baggage thief and wants to see my claim-check or something. But it turns out that what he wants is my duffel: he wants to carry it to 1009 for me. And I, who am about half again this poor herniated little guy’s size (as is the duffel bag itself), protest politely, trying to be considerate, saying Don’t Fret, Not a Big Deal, Just Need My Good Old ZnO. I indicate to the porter that I can see they have some sort of incredibly organized ordinal luggage-dispersal system under way here and that I don’t mean to disrupt it or make him carry a Lot #7 bag before a Lot #2 bag or anything, and no I’ll just get the big old heavy weather stained sucker out of here myself and give the little guy that much less work to do.

And then now a very strange argument indeed ensues, me v. the Lebanese porter, because it turns out I am putting this guy, who barely speaks English, in a terrible kind of sedulous-service double-bind, a paradox of pampering: viz. the The-Passenger’s-Always-Right-versus-Never-Let-A-Passenger-Carry-His-Own-Bag paradox. Clueless at the time about what this poor little Lebanese man is going through, I wave off both his high-pitched protests and his agonized expression as mere servile courtesy, and I extract the duffel and lug it up the hall to 1009 and slather the old beak with ZnO and go outside to watch the coast of Florida recede cinematically à la F. Conroy.

Only later did I understand what I’d done. Only later did I learn that that little Lebanese Deck 10 porter had his head just about chewed off by the (also Lebanese) Deck 10 Head Porter, who’d had his own head chewed off by the Austrian Chief Steward, who’d received confirmed reports that a Deck 10 passenger had been seen carrying his own luggage up the Port hallway of Deck 10 and now demanded rolling Lebanese heads for this clear indication of porterly dereliction, and had reported (the Austrian Chief Steward did) the incident (as is apparently SOP) to an officer in the Guest Relations Dept., a Greek officer with Revo shades and a walkie-talkie and officerial epaulets so complex I never did figure out what his rank was; and this high-ranking Greek guy actually came around to 1009 after Saturday’s supper to apologize on behalf of practically the entire Chandris shipping line and to assure me that ragged-necked Lebanese heads were even at that moment rolling down various corridors in piacular recompense for my having had to carry my own bag. And even though this Greek officer’s English was in lots of ways better than mine, it took me no less than ten minutes to express my own horror and to claim responsibility and to detail the double-bind I’d put the porter in—brandishing at relevant moments the actual tube of ZnO that had caused the whole snafu—ten or more minutes before I could get enough of a promise from the Greek officer that various chewed-off heads would be reattached and employee records unbesmirched to feel comfortable enough to allow the officer to leave and the whole incident was incredibly frazzling and angst-fraught and filled almost a whole Mead notebook and is here recounted in only its barest psychoskeletal outline.

I made you all wade through that classicly dense DFW prose not to convert you to Wallace (which you should consider doing on your own terms), but because it tees up the conversation I want to have here today so perfectly.

You see, I hate to be pampered. When I check into a hotel, I want to take my bags to my room. I want to carry my golf clubs out to the range. I want to open my own yogurt (which they would not let me do in the Mandarin Oriental in Chiang Mai, Thailand). I want to get my own beach towels at the pool, etc. etc.

So why is that? I asked Jessica this morning. What causes this discomfort with being pampered (which is all about creating comfort)? She replied "guilt?". To which I nodded, "I guess so". But it's more than that. I can do these things. I can take care of myself. I don't want or need someone doing them for me.

But as Wallace points out, the people whose job it is to pamper you want to do their job and want to do it well. Which creates a challenge for people like me who don't want to be pampered. The older I get and the more set in my ways and the more pampering I encounter, the worse it gets. I suppose I should just learn to love it. I will work on that. 

Fun Friday: Staying Cool

It's time for a fun friday again. I'm not sure when the last time we did this, but it's been a while.

I've been in europe all week where it has been warm. But I've heard that its been steamy in NYC where I am headed this evening.

So with that in mind, how do you keep cool when the temps reach 100 degrees and it feels like a sauna outside?

The obvious answer is air conditioning. But I am looking for other options.

I like to go for a bike ride in the early morning, like 6am, when its still bearable out, and I also like to take a walk along the hudson river in the evenings where there is often a breeze when there isn't one anywhere else in the city.

How do you stay cool when it gets hot outside?

Remembering

While it is true that Memorial Day serves as the unofficial start of summer, we should note that it is actually a day to remember our fallen service men and women.

As we wrap up wars half way around the world and bring our soldiers home, we should take a second and remember all of our soldiers who did not return from Iraq and Afghanistan. We should also remember those who did not come home from Vietnam, Korea, WWII, WWI, and countless other wars our country has fought in its short histroy.

Regardless of what you think of war, we can honor these men and women. If you can get to a military cemetery, put a flower or a flag on a soldier's grave. If you cannot, please take some time out of your day to think about them and remember them.

I woke up this morning thinking about the military cemetery in Normandy where 10,000 of our fallen soldiers are buried. I took this picture when our family visited Normandy almost three years ago. You can't see something like that without feeling the loss. Please take some time to feel that today.

Normandy cemetery

Mothers Day

Happy Mothers Day to all mothers out there. I am particularly grateful to the two mothers in my life, my mom and the Gotham Gal.

I looked at the mirror the other day and saw my mom in my face. I like that. She is a beatiful woman and if I age as well as she has, then I will be a lucky man. I am looking forward to calling her today and catching up on things as we do most every sunday.

We were at dinner last night with a young couple. The young man asked me when we started having children. I told him that the Gotham Gal insisted we have kids before we turned thirty. And so we did.

Jessica was born when we were 29. I am not sure that I was ready to be a father but Joanne was ready to be a mother and so we went for it. She has been an incredible mother to our kids and in many ways to me too.

Mothering is something we all need and thank god for all the mothers out there who provide it to us day in and day out. Today is your day. I hope it is a great one.

Fun Friday: What Would You Use A Drone For?

In my talk yesterday at Princeton, we got to discussing drones. A young woman asked me what I would use a drone for.

My answer was dry cleaning runs. I want to hand my drone the week's dry cleaning, have the drone fly over to sixth ave and 10th street where our dry cleaner is, drop off the clothes and then return home. When the dry cleaning is ready to pick up, the drone would fly back, get it, and bring it back home.

Of course, if everyone did this, the skies in NYC would be so filled with drones that we wouldn't be able to see the sun. That doesn't feel so great to be honest.

What would you use a drone for?

The Boston Marathon Bombing

I don't have a lot to say about what happened in Boston yesterday. But I do want to acknowledge it.

I agree that we should keep calm and carry on. After 9/11, the Gotham Gal made our family get on the subway, go out and about, and not let terror impact our way of life. That was the right call for our family.

But before I carry on, I want to make sure that I, and all of you, have the opportunity to talk about the senseless losses and violence that occurred. It is tragic and terrible.

Fun Friday: Favorite Brands

Yesterday's rant in the comments on HBO vs Netflix and Apple vs Google gave me the idea of a fun friday on brands we love (or hate). Since Kirk tells me I hate too much, I will keep my comments to brands I love. But I am not opposed to hating in the comments. In fact, I think it is fun if it is done respectfully. Sometimes our comment threads here are too nice. And too nice is too boring.

Here are a few brands that I love.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue bottle coffee

 

Twitter

Twitter logo

 

Doyle Mueser

Doyle mueser

 

Tell us about the brands you love in the comments.

 

Home

The 5am routine is back! I am writing this from my home office. We slept at home last night. Ten weeks in hotels is over. Thank god.

It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when you are staying in nice hotels when others who were displaced from Sandy are in much worse situations. But being out of your home for a long period of time sucks no matter where you are staying.

Here's what I missed the most:

1) home cooked meals from the Gotham Gal. We got one last night. It was the best meal I've eaten in months and we have dined at some of the finest restaurants in the world in the past two months.

2) saying goodnight and good morning to my kids every day. having kids staying in hotel rooms on different floors is a family disconnect of major proportions. i hated it.

3) my closet. living out of a suitcase for 10 weeks is ridiculous.

4) the Gotham Gal's smile. the past ten weeks has been harder on her than anyone else.

5) my office. it's my sanctuary. it is the only place that is entirely mine. where i can go and think and write. i'm here now. it feels like an old friend who has been away for a while.

Anyway, I'm hoping that having the routine back will lead to a burst of creativity and output. I can say for sure that I struggled mightily to keep it going the past 10 weeks.

Merry Christmas Everyone

It's mid afternoon on the east coast as I write this. The time difference between Tokyo and NYC means I am eary or late to most things this week.

Christmas isn't much of a thing in Tokyo so I am mostly getting my holiday cheer from Tumblr and Instagram. Though our family hasn't celebrated Christmas at home in over a decade, I still miss it. We did celebrate it with the Gotham Gal's family last year in Utah which was nice.

Christmas to me is family time. And our family has made it a tradition to go away somewhere far away for two weeks every Christmas for the past decade. So like most families, we have amazing Christmas memories. But ours don't include Christmas trees, holiday music, opening gifts, and family feasts these days.

So I'd like to wish my family and friends and all of you a merry christmas. I hope you are able to spend it with loved ones.

With that I am signing off so I can grab a livestream of the Lakers Knicks game. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can watch the NBA anywhere in the world these days.

The Flow and The Balance

No this is not a post about yoga, although I am really looking forward to my yoga class this morning. It's about the two concepts in finance that I think are most important for folks to understand.

The Gotham Gal and I went out to dinner with our oldest child Jessica last night. We got into a deep discussion of personal finance and how to manage it. I was talking about the difference between how much you make and spend and how much you have in the bank. I wanted to talk about the P&L and the Balance Sheet but I did not want to use those business concepts. So I called them the flow and the balance.

The flow is how much you make and how much you spend. It is the flow of money in and out of your bank account each day, week, month, year, etc. The balance is how much money you have in the bank (or any other form of account where you can have money on deposit).

We talked about how you could have a balance of $10,000 and because your flow is negative (you spend more than you make), that balance could go to zero over time. And we talked about how you could start with a balance of zero and because your flow is positive (you save money each month), your balance could grow to $10,000 over time.

As we were talking, I was reminded that unless you major in economics or finance, high school and college doesn't prepare you for the world of personal finance. Jessica has most of the tools she needs to manage her finances and she has been doing it for a while because we make our children responsible for their spending as they become young adults. And yet, she found this distinction between flow and balance helpful to understand as she prepares to get out of college and take even more control of her personal finances.

The generation that my kids belong to will have some incredible tools as they start to take control of their own finances. Online banking and web and mobile based personal finance tools that take advantage of the portability of your personal finance data are evolving at a fast and furious rate. But to use these tools, you need to understand and make sense of the data. I think simplifying and demystifying these concepts and this data is key. And I wish that there were more educational resources available to young adults as they enter the working world to help them with this stuff. It's important.