Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Map of Wine and Food

Speaking of teaching ... have you ever wondered how to pair food with wine? This map breaks down the relationships and dimensions in flavor better than any I have seen. Thanks to old HS acquaintance Alex Rainert for showing me the way.

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A couple things to note. Oregon Pinot Noir is in the center, meaning it is one of the most amenable wines to bring to a dinner party if you don't know what's being served. It also shows how Filet Mignon is to Ribeye as Turkey is to Duck as Parmesan is to Gruyere. Simply great!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

To Love to Teach

Almost everything I have done professionally and in most of the other meaningful accomplishments, it's really been about teaching. Sales was teaching a client how we could help. Outbound marketing is teaching customers what you provide to them. Inbound marketing is about teaching your dev team what to build to meet market demand. Marrying Ira and Joanne was about teaching others about why this moment was indeed sacred. Raising your children is about teaching each and every moment.

One of my favorite moments last year was teaching my friend's Marisa's Kindergarten class about Antarctica. It was just so much fun to cultivate that wide eyed amazement of children and hopefully inspiring them to explore. It gave me the inspiration to go back to my own school and lecture.

Here is a little blurb about me in Scholastic. It reminds me to teach and consequently to learn every day.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Challenge: A Recess from Excess

These times wreak of the times of old. Neronian reforms while the infrastructure crumbles. Maybe. But it has been a time of excessive greed. And while it is easy to look at the greed and self-indulgence of Wall Street, it's quite harder to look inward.

I don't consider myself materially self indulgent. I have bought one electronic item of significance in the past 5 years. I like clothes, but I wouldn't say I am a shop-a-holic like many I know. I save 30% of my salary every month without fail (although that amount seems a lot smaller in my ETrade account as of late). No, my area of self indulgence is food.

After myriad cooking classes, dinners out, and just growing up on Il Mulino, my desire, appreciation and discerning palette is probably my greatest example of self indulgence. Every year I challenge myself to give up something self-indulgent for a month. Last year it was alcohol. This year it is all the beautiful cuts and preparations of red meat.

No lamb. No veal. No steak. No hamburgers at Royale. No all beef hot dogs at Grey's Papaya. Pastrami sandwiches at Katz's. No carnitas plate at Yuca bar. No tender filets or the swappable tender and marbled king of steak, the porterhouse. It has been to date, well, surprisingly easy.

And I would like to tell you how these abstinences make me feel healthy and alive, but they don't really. That's probably the most dissapointing, and perhaps the most encouraging. The body is incredibly adept at processing whatever you throw at it. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the recent evidence that a low fat diet has no effect on health (a low calorie diet does).

No this is a matter of testing will. Testing what you think you can do. And declaring independence from all the self-imposed constraints. To me it's not about pious sacrifice, it's about challenging the rules. Challenging what you think is out of your control.

What do you think is out of your control? Want to test that theory?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Human Feedback Feeds the Machine

Ahhh ... yes. I love it when someone I know comments on my blog and points me to some cool things based on my post. Big shout out to Brian Delassandro for following up on my post on networking the human mind to solve really hard problems, That's Using Your Noggin.

Brian points us to Amazon's Mechanical Turk, a way to request the services of a network of knowledge workers. What could you use it for?

What could you do with a million simple tasks? A billion? A trillion?

Fighting Gravity

I think many of us spend a lot of time fighting gravity. I spent a weekend ago snowboarding and I know I spent a lot of time doing it. When I hit the occasional patch of ice that made me go fast (yes, east coast slopes), I would turn my board more to get a better edge to slow down. The problem is that you aren’t that effective anyway, and then when you hit a patch of snow again I would slow down way too fast, like getting hit by a car. And then I would go flying Superman style for a spectacular flop.

After a couple times of this, I decided to speed up during the patches of ice and go with the ice flow. I went a little faster than I wanted. Not fully in my control. But then when I was back on familiar terrain I was in a position I wanted to be and just cruised right through.

Such is gravity. 9.8 meters per second squared. Constant acceleration. Exponential velocity curve.

My Uncle Arthur tried to fight gravity in the army too. His gravity was the general perception that he was a Jew. And given this was during the Korea War, prejudices ran stronger than they do today. Arthur continued to flounder as he tried roles others assumed he was less fit for until he got reprimanded and was put in charge of acquisition of supplies.

Essentially, he was Red from Shawshank Redemption. The guy who could get you what you needed. In a more appropriate M.A.S.H. context, he was B.J. Honeycut or Hawkeye making trades with other units under the radar. What a perfect job for a “Jew” and so he excelled, accelerating with the natural gravity of the situation.

At the same time, some of the greatest leaders of our time have been able to resist and overcome gravity, creating revolutionary ideas that changed the gravities of their time. But how do you know when to do which?

I find myself coming to the same conclusions as astronauts. Sometimes when caught in the inevitable pull of gravity the best idea is to embrace it, speed towards in that direction and just before hitting the object and crashing, fire all thrusters in a lateral move and slingshot past it. Then you are free to navigate any direction you choose. It's about using gravity to reach escape velocity. In astrophysics it's called gravity assist.

What gravity are you fighting right now? Should you be fighting it or using it?