Category: Life

COVID19 Life – Day 5

Today was the fifth day of the full on quarantine. For many, this experience started way earlier but for me and my family, things have radically changed within the past week as it has for so many others. Thankfully, none of us are showing any symptoms and we all appear healthy.

For me, the hardest part of this experience has been the impact that it has had on my children – one who is a Freshman in college and one who is a Junior in high school. Those ~6 years – late high school and college – are arguably some of the best and most important years in a person’s life, where you grow, where you change, and where you make deep meaningful friendships with your peers. Not to mention, it is the period where you find and hone your interests and try to set a path for the rest of your life. That experience has suddenly been ripped away from my kids and it is just heartbreaking.

My son has been doing virtual schooling via his high school since Monday. My daughter started her virtual college classes today. In general, the transition to virtual classes has been fine, but both have expressed really missing the interactions with their peers and the fun of spending time with their friends. The novelty of it for a week or three may sustain both of them, but I am worried when we get to May and they are still doing the virtual classes. How will their state of mind be by that point? What will be the emotional toll?

The scary thing is that this may not be a temporary thing. This situation could have long, deep, lasting impacts that go beyond when ‘things get back to normal’, because I don’t (and no one knows) what normal will look like. How will colleges and universities operate in the near term, with kids living so close to each other and interacting so closely on a campus? How will this impact kids who are the same age as my children from a social and emotional perspective? For high school kids in their Junior year, how will colleges evaluate their applications and factor this experience into the equation? How will universities factor the emotional and psychological toll of this experience into how these high school Juniors performed during this year? What about the kids who are high school Freshmen and Sophomores? Will all the schools out there transition to become the University of Phoenix?

Those are the things that I am thinking about these days, as we get all sorts of prognosticators predicting how long this will be the way we will live.

Optimistically, the medical community will find a vaccine for COVID-19 and it will eventually go away like mumps, rubella, and polio. But how long will that take? Because, I’m more interested in seeing how ‘social distancing’ will impact how we interact with each other in the near and long term future.

Stanley Kubrick. Photographer.

Leonard Bernstein lounging

Before Stanley Kubrick was Stanley Kubrick he was a photographer for Look Magazine in NYC. The Museum of the City of NY has posted about 42 pages of Kubrick’s photos from his five year stint at the magazine and you can clearly see the beginnings of what will become a most legendary film career.

Zero Mostel looking sullen
Advertising painters on 42nd Street @ NYPL
Boys talking to a Mom.

Kubrick took some really interesting photos including many of Rocky Marciano, Dwight D. Eisenhower, many around Columbia University, and many ‘slice of NYC life’ photos. The collection is a really nice window into how NYC life was like back in the 1940s.

h/t: Vintage Everyday, DeMilked, Museum of City of NY – Kubrick collection

To No One’s Surprise, Boston’s Streets Are A Nightmare

Cal Berkeley graduate student Geoff Boeing conducted a fascinating analysis of the street layout of major cities in the US and Internationally.  Meaning, how is a city’s street layout oriented relative to a traditional compass – how true is the layout to a North/South/East/West layout?  Across most major US cities, the orientation follows that of a compass.  However, to no one’s great surprise, Boston fails spectacularly in this analysis (as does Charlotte, NC for some reason).

Although [Boston] features a grid in some neighborhoods like the Back Bay and South Boston, these grids tend to not be aligned with one another, resulting in a mish-mash of competing orientations. Furthermore, these grids are not ubiquitous and Boston’s other streets wind in many directions. If you’re going north and then take a right turn, you might know that you are immediately heading east, but it’s hard to know where you’re eventually really heading in the long run.
This makes it harder for unfamiliar visitors to navigate Boston than many other US cities. It does not adhere to a straightforward north-south-east-west pattern (or any other consistent, predictable pattern) that our brains adjust to in most places, not because Boston apocryphally paved over its cow paths, but because of its age, terrain, and annexation of various independent towns.

Geoff Boeing
Image Credit: Geoff Boeing

When you look at how the International cities trend from the lens of this analysis – old, European and Asian cities that have been around forever and basically just evolved and expanded with no set ‘urban plan’ from their ancient origins – it makes sense that some of the older US cities follow the same ‘organized chaos’. 

So next time you’re driving around Boston, you can take some solace in knowing that driving around there is not for the faint of heart. 

We Lost An Airplane, Sir

After four years and countless search missions across the South Pacific, the search and recovery mission for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 will officially come to an end later this month.

In an age when companies can create robots that can open doors and jump with perfect balance, where we can target individuals on their phones within a couple of yards, and where we can send rockets into space and then have them nail re-entry and stick the landing, we incomprehensibly are not able to create a reasonable tracking system to pinpoint the location of a freaking airplane? And in order to find out what happened when an accident or crash happens, we have to search the wreckage site for the infamous “black box” (which is not even black) that records the conversations and dialogue on the plane. What a collective embarrassment. This is an industry that is critical to global commerce and global life, and it still relies on technology, processes, and infrastructure from the 1950s. How is it possible that I can get on my iPhone and stream practically any movie I want in a matter of seconds yet the airlines are not able to use the same methodology to stream the cockpit audio to a central server farm that can be accessed and recovered irrespective of what happens to the plane itself?

I feel so bad for the families of those that were lost in the Malaysia Airlines crash. Or, maybe they did not crash. Maybe the pilot nailed an ocean landing like Sully did on the Hudson and they are living it up on a deserted island in the South Pacific, where they don’t have to concern themselves with anything other then when it is high tide.

Paying It Forward

I’ve always enjoyed helping people out – almost to a fault. There are times when you help out a friend knowing that they will get you back sometime down the line.

There is the ever present ‘don’t burn bridges’ mantra that is even more relevant in today’s uber-networked world (an ideal that is probably impossible to uphold with 100% success, but that is another analysis altogether). In many ways, I’m in this sort of a situation these days as I look for ‘the next big thing’ in my career and so dependant on my network of friends, colleagues and family to help me get through this situation. And then there are the times when you help someone out and then question what the hell you are doing or have the whole thing backfire on you (we’ve all been there). In all of these scenarios, you do what you can to help someone out and rationalize that we’re all just doing our best to succeed and live our lives.

So when a couple of weeks ago, I received a blind email from a student at Syracuse University (my alma mater) – I could not help but lend a hand, and boy, did the result make me feel great! You see, on my SU Alumni profile, it says I worked at American Express (which I did from 2004 – 2010). The student was doing some research because he had applied to American Express’ undergraduate internship program. He was digging into the SU Alumni Database hoping to see if any SU alums work – or had worked – at American Express. Maybe he could get some tips, pointers, and advice about how best to approach the upcoming interviews. So when he found my name, he shot me an email, completely blindly and with admittedly low expectations. (Sidenote: This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. Several years ago, another SU student reached out to me for the exact same reason. That time, I spoke to the student a few times and to this day, we’re still in touch (mostly through email and text).

I responded to him within a day, we scheduled some time and ended up having a nice conversation. He had a series of questions to ask, I provided him as much background as I could and I also had some fun hearing about how the Syracuse campus was holding up this winter. It was nice. A week or so later, I got another email from him, saying he made it to the next round – an in person interview! – and he wanted to set up another call for some coaching because the first one was so helpful! So we connected again and I helped him prep for the live interview. And then, over the weekend, I got the best email of the bunch – the student informed me that he won the role and got accepted into the internship program! How awesome is that!?!

I’m not sure if I will ever meet this student face to face – it would be fun to do so one day. I’d like to think that in some small way, I helped him kick off a productive career. Time will tell. But above all else, what I hope is that one day, about 20 years from now, when some Syracuse undergrad who is just starting out on his or her adventure emails him, asking for advice and help, he’ll do the same thing and help get that future kid get prepared.

Cars

Some interesting integrations and acquisitions within the Auto industries. First off, Kia will be integrating Google Maps into their car dashboards. While this will hardly be a reason to buy a Kia, the U/X is interesting and very similar to Google’s Chrome to Phone widget.

Users will also be able to send a POI or a destination to their car using a smartphone app, find the newest Kia dealership using Google Places, and control their on-board navigation system through voice commands.

I wonder if Kia will now be partnering with Google to provide cars for their ubiquitous Google Maps auto driving car or other such efforts.

In another Auto related move, Avis continues to try harder by this time snapping up the urban-ly popular ZipCar for a cool half a bil. To me, this move seems to be a bit of a defensive move on Avis’ part as it is clear that “traditional” rental car retailers are getting hit by these “quick rent” services like ZipCar, especially now that they have expanded up from hourly to the traditional daily rental space. In a way, Avis was probably a bit worried about the “WalMart Effect”, where a smart upstart competitor (ZipCar = WalMart) started eating away at market share by attacking a vulnerable area of the market (unserved market of urbanites/college kids who need a car to do quick errands or take a day trip = WalMart going after low income markets early on). Maybe Avis wasn’t in the mood to wake up one day and realize they were Sears.

And if we all really think about it, the car is just another device in the American household. Just a really expensive one.

Redhead Festival

The town of Breda in the Netherlands held the 6th Annual Redhead Festival. Approximately 5,000 fellow redheads showed up and they also set some sort of world record when over 1,200 redheads gathered for a photo (who keeps these records?).

The redhead fest was launched somewhat by accident in 2005, when a local Dutch painter was recruiting 15 ginger-haired models for a painting. When he received 10 times the number of responses than what he needed, he decided to amass them all for a photo shoot. And the number of redheads present each year has grown exponentially, as has the number of boring-haired spectators. These non-ginger gawkers numbered more than 7,000 in 2009, the BBC noted, although that total hasn’t been updated since.

According to the article, us redheads are said to make up 2% of the world’s population, although I’ve heard differing reports that the number is closer to 5%. I think I need to put this event on the calendar for next year.

Via Time by way of NextDraft

2008

If 2008 was a marathon, then I’m crawling at about mile 25.9.

This has just been a long year on a multitude of fronts.

I am so looking forward to taking some time off for the holidays to enjoy some rest and look into 2009 with a positive and enthusiastic perspective. Even though many are saying it’s going to be a harder year than 2008.

Flip The Switch

Received today from a friend. I just laughed. With all the miserable news these days, someetimes I do feel this way:

DUE TO RECENT BUDGET CUTS,
AND THE RISING COST OF ELECTRICITY, GAS AND OIL,
THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL HAS BEEN TURNED OFF.
WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE

Sincerely,
Your US Government

Farnsworth House

This past weekend, my wife and I took the second leg of our three stop journey to see three of the most amazing post-modern architecture landmarks in the country, if not in the World, by visiting Meis van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Plano, IL. The tour was very interesting and engaging and if you are ever in Chicago, I’d recommend you take the opportunity to drive out there and visit.

As you may recall, back in October we visited Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Caanan, CT. Later this year, we’re planning on visiting Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, out in Bear Run, PA.

The tour guide at Farnsworth House was very knowledgeable of the history of the house, including the deterioration of the relationship between Meis and Dr. Edith Farnsworth by the time the house was completed. He told of how Dr. Farnsworth wanted to decorate the space with her own furniture and curtains, while Meis had a specific vision to have the interior design and space be one with the exterior.

In terms of the property and the house itself, I felt that the house was much more of an element of its surroundings, with its proximity to the Fox River and the creeks running near by. The huge pane glass windows and the cantilevered porch drew the outside into the living space and I felt much more comfortable in the space. The way the kitchen was designed within the space was extremely interesting. But of all the elements of the house, probably the most innovative and impressive from an engineering perspective was the way Meis had all the “guts” of the house flow through one small engineering room in the middle of the structure. When I look at both buildings, Farnsworth seemed so welcoming while the Glass House, with is herringbone brick floor, its black metal structure, and a feeling that the structure itself was just dropped on the plot of land, had a pervasively cold and soulless feeling.

Fate or Happenstance?

Sometimes, things happen that make you wonder if there is a larger master plan in place.

A bit over a week ago, I was in Chicago at the Inc. 500 Conference, where my company announced the launch of a new product The Plum Card. I was honored to be a last (but not least) minute addition to the team that manned the booth at the conference as we announced this innovative product.

The minor logistical problem was that prior to being added to the Chicago Plum announcement team, I had planned and booked a trip to attend the Conversational Marketing Summit hosted by John Battelle and Federated Media that was being held early the following week . So I had to adjust my travel plans to fly from Chicago right to SF, which unfortunately meant connecting flights in….Houston(Chicago is not a Continental hub). I dreaded the idea of connecting flights but did it none the less.

Fast forward to Houston…no, we don’t have a problem. I’m sitting on the plane waiting for it to shut the doors to take off to SF. And as I look forward in the plane, I see the one guy get on the plane at the very last minute. As I look at this person more, I realize it was my friend Joe from business school. My friend Joe lives in Mexico City, Mexico. I ended up trading seats with a woman sitting in Joe’s aisle and we caught up most of the ride to SF.

So lets think about the chain of events here: I was added to the team from work that was in Chicago, thus prompting me to change my travel plans. I wanted to stay in Chicago longer, but when I could not find an equitable direct flight to SF from Chicago on that Sunday, I reluctantly traveled through Houston on Saturday. None of my flights got delayed and I was able to make a seamless connection. On the other side, Joe was traveling from Mexico City to SF to visit his sister, and after battling through customs, barely made the same connecting flight I was on to SF. Two friends who attended the same business school in NYC, who live on different ends of North America, run into each other on a connecting flight in Houston, TX traveling to San Francisco.

We ended up hanging out a couple of times while we were in SF. It was great to catch up.

Circumstance. Fate. Luck. All of the above.