Month: March 2014

It’s So Wrong, It Must Be Right (874).


These are three Instagram-filtered photos I took on my iPhone over the course of about 24 hours this past weekend.  The photos don’t look so hot enlarged beyond the confines of my mobile screen.  They are deliberately out-of-focus, save for the digit on the boy’s jerseys.  I deliberately put that apostrophe in the preceding sentence between the “y” and the “s,” as well.  “Boy’s” in the singular possessive rather than “boys'” in the plural.  I know my way around an apostrophe, you see, as I am the product of two long-time, and now long-retired elementary school teachers.  

One boy, several jerseys.  Not three boys with three jerseys. All in a 24-hour timeframe.  This eldest son of mine is now officially a living, breathing experiment subject.  The hypothesis:  It is a good idea for a single child to participate in four sports at a single time. In laymen’s terms:

It’s so wrong, it must be right. 

This is mostly all my doing.  Whatever prison psychiatrist down the road is assigned to Max will surely point a crooked finger back in time straight at me, Max’s dad.  Or more accurately, at Max’s dad’s curious obsession with piling on, at leaving all the doors in a hallway swung wide open, at flirting with overscheduling disaster, at jamming 36 hours into a 24-hour day, the zippers threatening to come unzipped at both ends and spilling their contents all over the pavement.

This Spring, Max has committed to travel soccer, travel baseball, travel lacrosse, and Little League.  Arguably, he did not so commit under duress; this was all done of his own volition.  His coaches have sized me up, looking for a clear indication that I am bent.  Crazy.  Some uncontrolled twitch at the corner of my mouth, perhaps.  Or a sudden, Hyena-cackle laugh, totally out of proportion with the rest of my affect, maybe even in reaction to nothing perceptible.  Out of the blue. “The guy’s lip was twitching like mad, he laughed like a maniac, and there was nothing even remotely funny at the time.  I’m telling you, he is clearly crazy!  No right-thinking person would put his first born through this.”  This is how I imagine the coaches’ side of the phone conversation with League officials that my actions might trigger.  

I myself am a coach, and have been one for a long time.  If a parent told me they had committed their child to all of this stuff, I would also be on the lookout for a telltale twitch.  I might even effect a citizen’s arrest.  This must fall under one or another definition of “child abuse,” no?  

I grasp at any seemingly-objective support that might justify this overcommitment.  A real-life and Facebook friend shares a blog post espousing the benefits associated with children participating in multiple sports rather than specializing in one.  I avert my eyes at the blog post’s title:  “The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports.”  The blogger can’t possibly be talking about me, after all.  I practically jump up and down, clapping my hands too quickly, when a coach of older boys or a former professional player of one sport or another tells me that Max should play as many sports as he can for as long as he can.  

And this really isn’t about me.  At least I don’t think so.  Although I do indeed wish I had played more sports rather than focus on just baseball, I really can’t begrudge baseball.  That sport helped raise me.  I’m still passing along both long-established and newly-discovered lessons to my young players, by the bushel.  I don’t feel any phantom pain where “the larger meaning of sport” should be.  I do, on occasion, think about whether my great grandfather, who was apparently a world-class sprinter, passed genes on to me that I somehow managed to let slip through my fingers along the way.  Then again, those thoughts prove helpful in the belly of the beast of a long run or ride.  The notion–real or imagined–that there just might be something inside me that is a little different, a little secret sauce, that will enable me to run one final 7-mile lap around this lake in the moonlight.  Hey, whatever works.

I suppose I hope that Max will come to realize that there is something special deep inside of him, too.  I hope that he won’t have to draw on a family legend of a man who raced on dirt in thin leather shoes to earn a living 100 years ago.  I hope that Max will be able to draw on his own resources when he needs to.  I hope he will be able readily to call up memories of his own resiliency, of thriving under pressure, of experiencing genuine physical or emotional pain, and pushing through it.  Whether all these jerseys, wearing all these numbers, shouldering all this gear, gets Max to this place?  I honestly have no way of knowing at this point.  So for the moment, I’ll keep twitching, cackling, and repeating my mantra:  

It’s So Wrong, It Must Be Right.  

Thanks for reading.        

Of Goat Brains, Beer & Twitter


At least one of these three ingredients in my title does not mix well with the other two.

I know what you’re thinking: “Stupid point, how could ‘goat brains’ mix well with anything?!?” That is probably the correct answer in most situations.

Just not in this particular situation.

The good people at Philadelphia’s Dock Street Brewing Co. set me up. Unintentionally, I’m sure, but set me up nonetheless. I just stumbled on a Business Insider tweet reporting that Dock Street has concocted “smoked goat brains” beer in tribute to a zombie show on cable TV. I haven’t read it, but Business Insider says the brewer’s accompanying press release touts the brains “to infuse a subtle, smoky flavor into the beer while the cranberries provide tartness and a pale redness reminiscent of blood.”

OK, so that’s sort of interesting, you might say. Beer made of goat brains. Provocative. Different. Probably won’t displace the spot on my fridge shelf reserved for Racer 5. Thanks anyway, though. In short, so what? Why am I reading about you reading about this?

This for me is another in a long line of cautionary tales that I have proven myself constitutionally incapable of absorbing. No, not putting stuff in food that probably shouldn’t be in there, and not eating things that probably shouldn’t be eaten. This is not another crickets story.

Nope. This is more of a “look before you share a Twitter link” type-deal. A modernized “look before you leap,” digital parable.

If you are like me, and have accumulated a, shall we say, “broad array of substantive content” streaming into your Twitter feed, please mind the gap, beware the pitfalls. Don’t be a dumbass.

The articles about dogs’ instinctual pooping in alignment with the earth’s magnetic fields, a group of jellyfish affectionately known as “the smack,” vitriolic rants about one college basketball team or the other, and now the goat brains beer? Those are barely palatable to me, mainly because I hit “Follow” somewhere along the line and have only myself to blame.

Those articles do not need to be sprayed out willy nilly, just because you (and by “you” I mean “I”) think they are interesting and must be shared with someone immediately.

Ease up with the “immediacy” part, would you? (And by “you” I mean “I”). Sharing at a full sprint can be dangerous.

Case in point: Within about 15 seconds after reading (OK, scanning) the Business Insider goat brains beer article, I forwarded it along to the founders of a different beer company. Fairly recent friends of mine whom I respect and apparently feel a burning need to impress. My thumbs danced across my iPhone keyboard, eager to share this bit of inspiration. I even added a personal note — “Saw this just now, made me think of you” — lest they think I share Twitter articles with just anybody.

What I intended to communicate was that there is a beer company-specific crowdfunding platform, or community, and that that might be interesting to my beer company friends. We had been exploring crowdfunding together over the past few months.

What I had intended to communicate is that this beer-focused crowdfunding platform’s Twitter handle is @crowdbrewed. CrowdBrewed, you see, just happened to tweet the goat brains beer article. In my haste, said goat brains beer article was the only content that found its way into my beer-making friends’ inbox courtesy of yours truly. Nothing about crowdfunding at all. Hard to send a more seemingly-bizarre email if you tried.

Fortunately I caught my error, though of course only after sending the “Hey guys you need to make beer out of goat brains!” initial email. That is the only way to describe the substance of my first email. What a dumbass (and by “dumbass” I mean “me”).

I hope that my follow up email explaining my folly restored whatever thin thread of credibility I still have with the brewers.

Or at least caused them to re-think filling out the Police Department paperwork required to apply for a restraining order. It was an honest mistake, Your Honor.

Thanks for reading.




I had no business going to Duke.  Or more accurately, I had no business being admitted to Duke.  I don’t know what the Duke admissions folks were thinking back in 1985, even contemplating the thought that I belonged among the incoming freshman class the next Fall.

I’ve interviewed a number of high school students over the years as a Duke alumnus.  These students have been, without exception, far more deserving than I was.  They have founded their own dance companies and introduced ballet to innercity neighborhoods more accustomed to drive-by shootings.  They are classically-trained pianists, starting point guards, and DJs specializing in “trance” mixes.  (“They” in this last sentence actually refers to a single person.)  They have spent their vacations mentoring underserved kids in bare-bones, but life-changing, summer camps.  They are polite.  They make and keep eye contact.  They are ridiculously modest; I have to practically drag out of them all of these outsized accomplishments.  They are amazing.  To a person, they are amazing.

No Duke alumnus interviewer or admissions packet-reviewer could have said the same about me in 1985.  I was jelly-headed, narcissistic, arrogant, far from worldly, and insufficiently curious.  Reading through that list again, I may well be all of these things still.  But that is better left for a later blog post.

My performance that first semester fairly proved the admissions committee had made a mistake on me.  By mid-semester, I had two Fs and a D, or maybe it was two Ds and an F.  It didn’t help that I had stubbornly chosen to take Chemistry, Calculus and some other ill-fitting course the name of which I cannot currently recall.  Clearly, they should have offered my spot to someone else.

On the plus side, I had learned to juggle beanbags; a skill I picked up from one of my two perfect SAT score roommates.  My mother, who had scraped by to pay my tuition, was not amused by my juggling.  The move where I toss a single bag in the air, then loft the others simultaneously to cross each other’s paths, cascading back down in a half-circle?  My mother’s eyes glazed over, probably calculating the tuition math in her head just as my juggling cubes scattered across the kitchen floor.  My kids will tell you, by the way, that this is still my signature juggling move.  Well, maybe my only juggling move.

Also on the plus side: I learned how to roll a quarter from the bridge of my nose, the coin’s thin circumference striking a hard surface two feet below, keeping just enough kinetic energy to wobble back into the air half again, before collapsing into a foamy, 24-ounce, plastic cup of beer.  This trick I taught my perfect SAT score roommates, as I recall.  I’m sure their parents were very impressed at their sons’ newfound skill.  My kids will tell you nothing about my proficiency with a quarter, by the way, because, well, just because.

My parents selflessly cobbled together the funds to cover my tuition, a critical piece of which was a gracious scholarship from the company for which my step-father worked.  Keeping that scholarship would require more than juggling tricks and bouncing currency, as I confessed in a repentant missive addressed to the scholarship director.  The scholarship director must have been persuaded, as she gave me another length of rope, when she could easily have cut me off and changed my trajectory.

Somehow I managed to scratch my way through the rest of my time at Duke.  I figured things out as I went along.  A couple days ago, prodded by my wife, I opened up a white cardboard box in my garage, unearthing some musty college notebooks.  The pages yellowed, my handwriting clearly imprinted there and clearly more legible than it is today.  Reading the words now, I can picture the 20 year-old me, brain slightly less gelatinous and slightly more curious.  Figuring things out.  Or perhaps more accurately, figuring out how important it is to want to figure things out.  Safe to say I am still trying to figure things out.

Those weathered pages also brought back an interesting and timely memory —

On one atypically snowy evening at Duke, I was wrestling at the bus stop with a buddy of mine.  I’m sure he had perfect SAT scores, with a double major in chemical and electrical engineering, to boot.  About all we shared, then, were bellies filled with beer.  At one point, I had managed to pin his arm behind his back or maybe stuff his head in a snowbank, and he complained, “C’mon Keir, get off!”  A solitary figure standing in the periphery startled me:

“Keir?  Is your name Keir Beadling?”

I stumbled to my feet wiping snow from the knees of my jeans, eye-balling him.  Not my age, and not someone I recognized from campus.  “Yes, um, hi, do I know you?”

“Well, no, not exactly, but I read your admissions essay and it was great.  Really great.  I was on the admissions committee a couple years back.  Good luck and take care.”

With that, the stranger climbed aboard the shuttle bus to East Campus, and left me standing there a little dumbstruck. Feeling as if I’d just seen a ghost, a piece of my own history, a rare glimpse at how and why things happen.  Fate, maybe.

I read this morning that Duke received 32,506 admission applications this past season — the school’s largest ever pool of applicants.  All competing for just 1700 spots.  I went to law school to avoid math, but I believe that equates to just 5.2%.  Very rough odds for kids with perfect SATs, ballet companies, cross-over dribbles, and Rachmaninoff sheet music.  Impossible odds for a beanbag-juggling quarters savant who apparently wrote one really good essay.   I figure I need to keep writing, if only to prove that my bus stop apparition made the right call on me thirty years ago.

Thanks for reading.

It’s Not As Bad As It Looks (I Couldn’t Resist).



A couple days back, I spied the cover of the latest Nob Hill Gazette on my neighbor’s walkway.  I couldn’t resist.  Out came the iPhone and the silent shutter setting. 

Apologies to the Gazette.  And to the artist behind the cover. But like I said, I couldn’t resist. 

I don’t know that “I couldn’t resist” is a viable legal defense to copyright infringement.  Interestingly enough, I could avoid imprisonment or the death penalty by successfully claiming that “I couldn’t resist,” say, killing my Nob Hill Gazette-subscribing neighbor.  I’m sure I could gin up some imagined wrong having to do with the neighbor’s nap nap dog constantly peeing on my front hedges.  And killing my hedges; a slow death from urine poisoning.  No such luck, though, using the same defense with respect to misusing the intellectual property of my neighbor’s Nob Hill Gazette.  Intellectually, this just seems wrong.  If I catch the nap nap dog lifting his little leg on my Box Leaf Privet, perhaps I will have a chance to resolve this particular harmonic dissonance.  

But I digress.

What I really wanted to write about is this:  The cartoonish depiction of an open water swim from Alcatraz is hurting my cause.  Or rather, my childrens’ school’s cause.  A school friend of ours is helping our school run its annual online auction, the proceeds of which help subsidize the indexed tuition program.  She conjured up the interesting idea of having a swim buddy (who is also a school mom) and I “host” a San Francisco Bay swim later this year, when the water is warmer and the days are longer.  What a creative idea for an auction item, I thought.  As I’ve written before, again, and once more, I love swimming in the Bay.  How could anyone not?!?

How could anyone not, indeed.  

One only need look at the Nob Hill Gazette cover to compile the reasons to not want to swim in the Bay.  Let’s see, there’s “The Rock” itself, ominous, foreboding, and those brothers who escaped, their bodies were never recovered, right?  Don’t particularly want to bump into the bloated Anglin brothers out there.  Then there’s the food chain concern.  The Gazette artist graciously includes only a small hint of what’s under there, with a harmless little sea lion popping up amidst the waves.  Well, I probably shouldn’t write this, since I am a fan of indexed tuition, however:  One, the sea lions are not always so friendly.  And two, the sea lions, it turns out, could be the least of a swimmer’s concerns out there.  So we’ve got that working for us.  

What else?  Well, how about nuclear-infused water?  Radiation from across the Pacific in Fukushima to our shores?  Yep, we got that too!  Well, maybe we do and maybe we don’t.  There seems to be some disagreement in the scientific community.  On the plus side, I suspect that the toxic radiation would serve to warm up the Bay’s waters a tad, normally a bit on the chilly side.  On some mornings when my pale, white, big toes require a couple hours to defrost after a swim, a little radiation seems appealing.

So in summary, it’s simply not as bad as it seems.  Who’s really afraid of territorial pinnapeds, near-sighted 20-foot sharks, and gene-bending chemicals?  After all, it’s for the kids! 

So if you are an MCDS parent (or have stolen the identity of one, I’m not going to split hairs on this), when the online auction goes “live” on April 2, click here, and bid early and often!  I hope we’re able to pack more swimmers into Aquatic Park than the ones drawn on the Gazette cover. 

On the other hand, if I receive a phone call from MCDS’ head of school about the wisdom of this morning’s blog post, I have a plan for that too:  I couldn’t resist.

Thanks for reading.

I’m Appy.


I got it bad.

This morning within 5 seconds of opening my eyes, I’d reached for my iPhone on the bedside table. The reach with my right arm can be beyond the normal range of motion that my shoulder can accommodate. It would be embarrassing to turn up at the ER with a shoulder out of socket due to reaching for my phone in bed. Still, a risk worth taking. And today turned out not to be the day I would visit the hospital.

So within 10 seconds of waking up, I’m tapping and scrolling through the various apps on my iPhone. Weather Bug to assess whether my 12 year old’s Little League game will be rained out this afternoon. Facebook to see which of my fabulous aunts read my blog post yesterday, and to see how Outside Magazine is making me feel puny today by not free soloing El Cap or not killing a moose in the wilderness with my bare hands and not sleeping overnight within its hollowed out rib cage to survive a blizzard.

Twitter to learn which news events should be top-of-mind before my bare feet hit the bedroom rug. And to see how many followers have beat a hasty retreat from my Twitter feed due to one or another offensive comments that I am evidently prone to posting. LinkedIn to see who has been stalking me, in a professional way, and to do some stalking of my own. Also in a professional way, it goes without saying, I assure you.

WordPress to learn how many readers read what I wrote yesterday, and to scratch my head at who the hell I know in Singapore, Switzerland, and South Africa. I’m big in those places. Instagram for some eye candy, and to ensure that (a) a digital acquaintance has properly observed etiquette by “hearting” one of my Instagram photos after I have “hearted” one of theirs, and (b) I am properly observing the same etiquette.

FitBit to confirm that I’m still atop my totem pole, not dethroned overnight because a buddy rattled off a midnight headlamp run in a bout of insomnia whilst I slept, unmoving. Google Maps to figure out how to get to a morning coffee with a friend, despite the fact that I’ve lived here for 15 years, been to the W Hotel a half-dozen times, and should be able to rely comfortably on my own, analogue memory.

PaybyPhone to stock the parking meter on New Montgomery with enough currency to last through said coffee. And to re-stock the meter from my iPhone screen when I decide to sit and blog in the W’s hotel lobby rather than get wet in the rain outside in the real world.

I’d like to think that all of the apps on my iPhone are mission-critical to the life that I live. To reinforce this, I do go through periodic sweeps, deleting stuff I just never use or that my kids somehow managed to sneak onto my phone surreptitiously. I stare down at the colorful little icons, erasing them from my life, on a digital rampage. It must be terrifying for these little apps, wondering if they will survive the next purge. A previous iOS version showed the apps shaking uncontrollably when a big thumb pressed on them with the intention of cleaning house. I think that’s probably just about right. Shaking in their digital boots.

Well, PaybyPhone, Google Maps, and WordPress apps: Rest easy. I cannot live without you over the next 20 minutes of my life. I need you. The rest of you apps: Be afraid; be very afraid.

I’m Appy.

Thanks for reading.


It’s All Between the Ears.


The game of baseball, as my 8 year-old son Everett commented yesterday, is weird.  It is played on a field that is partly grass, partly dirt.  The field is in the shape of a diamond of sorts.  There are a bunch of other painted spaces, though, where the coaches stand, the batters stand, the catcher squats, the pitcher roams, and so on.  The innings, the count, the score are recorded on the spaces of a wooden scoreboard or paper scorebook.  So many spaces. 

But the game of baseball boils down, in my humble opinion, to a single space:  The space between the ears.  I think this is probably true for all levels of the game, but I know it to be true in Little League.  I have seen this idea at work since my now 12 year-old played his first game as a 5 year-old.  Now, at the more competitive, “Majors” level of Little League, I feel like I am locked in a sprint.  A sprint to get our team’s players to recognize the power in their minds before the other teams’ coaches are able to do the same with their own players. 

San Francisco Little League does not “roll over” the same players to the same coaches and same team season after season. Instead, we coaches essentially start from scratch every season, with a new group of kids.  I understand that our league may be unique in this respect.  It can be frustrating, in a sense, because we invest so much time in these boys over the course of a season.  And at the end of it, they move over to a different team with different coaches the next time around.  On the other hand, the annual sea change brings abundant opportunity for the coaches to ply and hone their trade.  It’s exhaustive, exhausting, and so totally worth it. 

Each player is a mystery, and I don’t have much time to figure them all out, because the reality is that we do indeed want to win some baseball games.  There is a process.

I squint my eyes and wrinkle my nose in a season-long effort to divine what makes each boy “tick.”  What is the thing that holds them back from experiencing the feeling of achieving something they thought impossible?  And once I figure out the “thing,” then help them overcome it by applying some mental energy, how can I get them to embrace this?  And how do I help them understand that they control “it,” not I?  It’s theirs to conjure up at will, not something we can hand to them before they step to the plate.  And once they experience the heat and power of their newly-discovered mental intensity, how can I motivate them to maintain it? 

This last one is the kicker.  The most critical to a team’s success.  And more importantly, the most critical to the player’s “success” in life, I would say.

It is extremely difficult to keep up the highest level of focused concentration during the entirety of a baseball game without letting up even for an instant.  The ebbs and flows of the innings.  Periods of rhythmic chatter from the dugout, mingling with weirdly quiet lulls.  A player seeing absolutely no action for an hour, then suddenly fate thrusts him center stage completely out of the blue.  How can we expect kids to dial up the intensity and then stay laser-focused throughout all of this?

If they’re doing it right, the player in the field is seeing the batted ball heading his way, envisioning how he will surround it, and how he will get rid of it.  All in his head, in the moments before the pitcher unwinds and slings the ball towards the plate.  The fielder mentally rehearsing how he will move his body.  If the pitcher is doing it right, he’s doing the same thing.  Playing in his mind a movie of the next pitch, before he makes it, in the space of his preparatory exhale after he has accepted his catcher’s sign.  And the hitter, if he is doing it right, will be picturing the pitched baseball in his mind’s eye. The ball’s path cut short by the metal stick he grips in his hands, thrust downward from his shoulder on the proper path. Imagining the feeling of applying the bat’s sweet spot to the baseball with evil intentions.

Elite alpine skiers do this in the minutes before they launch from the starting gate at the top of a run.  Elite gymnasts do this constantly.  Divers too.  Probably bobsledders, as well.  Certainly basketball players, when measuring up the rim from the free throw line for the 100,000th time. 

There’s a lot going on between the ears, you see. Or at least there should be.  But it has to be taught.

And all the moving parts involved with the game of baseball can make this an especially supreme challenge for our kids.  Once a player catches a glimpse or whiff of the power of his mind, it can be very cool.  And it can also be a little scary.  For the player, it’s akin to pulling a bag of just-popped popcorn from the microwave.  Too hot to handle.  They can only pinch a tiny corner, careful not to have a hand slip in the way of the escaping steam and get cooked like a lobster. 

I can usually spot when a player has the popcorn bag in his hand.  I can recognize it from behind my L-Screen in the batting cage, straddling the white line in the 3rd base coaches’ box, or subbing in briefly for a player’s throwing partner during warmups and thereby making a connection that is unique between two people playing catch with a baseball. 

Bag-in-hand suddenly, their eyes widen, as if they had just stumbled on something for the first time.  They have.  And it’s awesome. 

“You see what you just did?” 

“Um, yeah. Wow!” 

“Well, I have some good news and some bad news.” 

“Huh?” [still holding the bag up between pinched fingers]

“The good news is that you just tapped into the power of your mind there, and you now know how to flip that switch to the ‘on’ position. Congratulations.”

“Cool!” [still holding the bag up, and they now begin to look around to show someone how hot the bag is and look at them holding this hot bag, hoping that maybe mom or dad is watching]

“Are you still with me?  The bad news is that you have to stay at this high level of intensity from the moment you step onto the field until the game’s final out is called.”

“Oh, um, oh.” [the bag will lower, likely dropped completely, and the popcorn will spill onto the grass]

It is extremely hard to maintain that focus, that energy, that intensity. 

It’s all between the ears, you see. 

Thanks for reading.

Note:  Thanks to Ariel Braunstein for the photo I used above, captured this past weekend at our 2nd graders’ Little League game.   I’m trying to get them to pick up the popcorn bag, too.  Though at these little guys’ age, the geese tend to fatten up on the kernels littering the field. 🙂

I Want To Be Famous (Part II).


It’s not easy being so damned good-looking. It’s a curse, really. My cross to bear. Just looking at this photo above makes me think that maybe, just maybe, there is a God after all. How else could such perfection come to be?

OK, so someone applied a face-stretching iPhone app to my face. Enhanced my jowls. Scrunched my head, Dick Tracy bad guy-like. But that squirrely, half-crossed left eye? That’s all me, baby. You can’t teach that. Or you got it, or you don’t.

Digitally-retouched or no, this photo is probably where my face is heading. Like one of those “this is your city in 50 years due to Global Warming” drawings. Only it’s my face, not the encroaching shoreline.

It’s scary, no? Not the photo; the photo is funny. Makes me giggle every time I stumble onto it, flipping through the photo albums on my phone. The getting old–or at least getting older–part, that’s what occasionally gives me a start.

I’m not complaining about my mental or emotional state, or even my physical condition. I think I’m wiser now, more thoughtful now, probably able to out-Burpee my younger self.

I do have some complaints about the state of the face that looks back at me in the mirror. Who the hell is that, and why is that dude in my bathroom?!? What happened to the fresh-faced high school kid in the maroon cap and gown? Never mind that said kid had a single eyebrow at the time of the cap and gown photo. I’d gladly trade one of my eyebrows to experience that youthful glow again. Wouldn’t I?

When I smile now, the lines that made it linger a moment or two on my face after I’ve quit smiling. The big knuckles of my big toes are bigger than they are supposed to be, and a bit cranky. Apparently their “pre-arthritic” condition a side-effect of the maybe one bazillion steps pounded into them along many miles of pavement, trails, and sand. I struggle a bit to capture my mate’s words over the din of a bustling restaurant, pragmatically resorting to cupping a hand behind my ear, the better to hear. I’m fairly certain that all these years of swimming in the frigid bay have not been kind to the inner workings of my inner ear. The business end of my teeth has been worn down a bit, polished smooth over time, bottom and top teeth grinding together while working through one or another of life’s many consternations.

My face is a map of where I’ve been. A collection of experiences that have made me who I am. And I am good with who I am. I’ll just have to get used to the ever-changing dude in the mirror.

Thanks for reading. >

I Want To Be Famous.

Has anybody not seen this video yet?

I think I am personally responsible for a dozen of the 1.1 million views this video has racked up on Vine and YouTube. I was turned on to Rachel Olson’s precocious quest for celebrity only this week by my 12 year-old. Seeing how the video was posted 7 months ago, I am apparently late to the party. But I don’t have any incentive to break the next “Charlie Bit My Finger.” I’ll happily tuck in behind my son’s digital slipstream. Let him bird dog the good stuff, separate the wheat from the chaff. I have no hound in this hunt.

And as a 45 year-old “adult,” I don’t even hunt. If I’m the one in my family introducing the latest “toddler in the backseat on laughing gas” video at the dining room table, well, that would be an issue. A red flag. A warning sign. I’m far too sophisticated and mature for that sort of thing.

So instead, like a virtual Turkey Buzzard, I will pick over the carcasses of these digital funnies until they are stripped bare of anything even remotely resembling comedy. My brain is already hard-wired for feasting on 140-character Tweets and 6-second Vines. I don’t need much provocation. If something tickles my funny-bone, I beat it to death. I can’t help myself.

Hot water burns baby. ‘Course it’s 10 minutes to Wapner. Charlie Babbitt and I share the same spectrum, at least when it comes to a comic riff that I just cannot shake.

To my credit, I rarely just repeat it over and over. I’ll change the cadence, the intonation, the facial expression with which it’s delivered. And towards the tail end of the riff’s useful life (to me, anyway), I’ll resort to layering in a foreign accent. Introducing an English accent will usually extend the riff by a week. Maybe longer. The good news is that if, by the time I get you in my tractor beam with a rendition of the Jerky Boys in brogue, we’re near the end. Hang on for a little longer. I’m just about done. Squeezing every last ounce of life out of it.

Scanning my meager memory banks right now, I realize that I am still giving currency to odd little ditties from when I was maybe 10 years old.


I obviously need to refresh my repertoire. Dig up some new material. Or at least cultivate some new foreign accents. A Swahili “click cluck click” rendition of “Heeeey, I Want to be famous”? Hmm, that just might work, or at least buy me more time. I just need another couple days, most likely, until my bird dog chases another social media nugget out of the hedges.

Thanks for reading.

Everybody Was (Still) Fitbit Fighting.



This is a follow-up to an earlier post 5 or 6 weeks ago on my experiences with the Fitbit phenomenon, desperately clawing my way to the top of my Fitbit totem pole and staying there.  That was maybe 500,000 steps and 300 miles ago.  And as you can see from the screenshot above, I am still sitting atop my totem pole.  With ease.  I am THE MAN.

Only I’m not.

At some point within the last few weeks, I stupidly invited a particular buddy of mine to connect via Fitbit.  I had been fairly dominating the totems on my pole up to that point.  I had gotten Fitbit-overconfident.  Fitbit-cocky.  When Icarus brazenly flew too near the sun, his waxen wings melted and he dropped like a rock.  The Fitbit may be water-resistant, but it also “melts” when too close to the sun, I am here to report to you (metaphorically). 

I had failed to think through my casual Fitbit invite, to perform the necessary due diligence, to vet my invitee.  Stupid, stupid, stupid. 

You see, John (may or may not be his real name) commutes to work on foot every day, racking up six miles just in the ordinary course of business.  Whistling the whole way, I imagine.  And he generally leaves for work early, before I’m even awake.  That means that (a) on my first totem pole check upon rising, John has already amassed a three-mile head start, and (b) he will tally my entire day’s worth of steps without even breaking a sweat.  Add to this the fact that John is also a triathlete.  So his accelerometer is pretty much never at rest.  The bastard (I’m referring to both John and his accelerometer) is relentless.

So how is it, you may ask, that my name appears atop the totem pole pictured above, instead of John’s?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

John travels out of town quite a bit, to the midwest in particular.  When he is in the air, that’s “go time” for me.  I sink some serious steps into him here on earth, confident in the knowledge that his trips to the on board restroom are infrequent and requiring only a handful of steps.  I don’t wish anything tragic on him, but a little extra turbulence to keep him belted to his seat for hours on end?  Yes please.  I aim to crush his spirit when he lands, pulls up the Fitbit iPhone app, and sees me 20,000 steps ahead.  That assumes, of course, that he checks his app.  That the competitive Fitbit-fire burns in his belly as it does mine.  That he is locked in this pitched Fitbit-battle with me, his arch Fitbit-nemesis.  He is none of these things of course.  He couldn’t care less. 

But I press on.

John and I also coach a Little League team together, as we have done for years now.  I have discovered that I can aggregate maybe 2 or 3 miles of steps in the course of a 90-minute practice.  These are like “free” steps!  I haven’t shared this bit of Fitbit-wisdom with my assistant coach.  Nor will I.  Rather, I make sure that John runs a drill station where he must be sedentary, standing absolutely still.  Holding the “Powerstick,” for example, which requires him to stand in one spot with feet locked in place while one player at a time takes his stance and swings at the yellow ball at the end of the long stick in John’s hand.  No Fitbit steps gained here.  Zero.  Take your time, John, be deliberate, stand…completely…still.  Whatever you do, for the kids’ sake, don’t move! 

Meanwhile, I run alongside my players in warmup drills, lifting my knees as high as they will go and pumping my fists.  I demonstrate–repeatedly–how to sprint through first base, then how to round first base to stretch it into a double, a triple, a round-tripper, and so on.  Bring on the step count, baby.  Run it up!  I am always the coach to throw batting practice pitches to our players.  It is no coincidence that my Fitbit accelerometer gives me credit for all those small steps on and around the pitcher’s mound.  Look at John over there, standing dead still holding that stick.  Feet locked in place.  Look at me, on the other hand, I am ticking these steps off at a record rate!  And he has no idea.  That is because he couldn’t care less, and is completely oblivious to this ridiculous, faux Fitbit-cage match I’ve manufactured in my own pea-sized mind.  But I press on.

The other night, John treated me to a much-appreciated steak dinner near Union Square.  Wonderful male-bonding way to spend a Friday night.  Very generous of him.  How did I repay his generosity?  By marching home after the meal, ringing up step after step, to ensure that John would go to bed an impossible number of steps behind me.  I even warned him during dinner that I planned to walk home, and that he better think about what kind of Fitbit-hurting I would be putting on him.  Never mind that I wasn’t dressed for the 3 or 4 mile walk up and down the San Francisco hills, that I was wearing a glorified pair of flip flops, and that my feet would be bone-sore for a couple days afterwards.  I had to crush him, and I did, and that’s how I got back on top of the totem pole pictured above.

It doesn’t matter, once again, that John is perfectly oblivious to all my Fitbit-machinations, that the Fitbit iPhone app is not one that pops up on his iPhone when you push the home screen to bring to the fore the most recently-used apps.  It’s possible, I admit, that John has never even installed the Fitbit app on his iPhone.  It’s possible, in fact, that he may never even see this very blog post.  (This I can fix, as I probably won’t be able to resist emailing him the link as soon as I hit “Publish Post.) 

Like I say, he couldn’t care less. But I am undeterred. 

I am also just 240 steps ahead of him at this moment.  I literally just checked.  The good news (for me) is that we will be coaching a Little League game together tonight on Treasure Island.  Looks like John will be working the Powerstick station again….

Thanks for reading.

Note: Apologies to my group of Fitbit friends for “outing” them by publishing the totem pole screenshot.  Then again, maybe those are their real names, and maybe they’re not.  So maybe apologies are necessary, and maybe they’re not.

I’m Out of My Hybrid Mind.


I attended a lecture the other day; thought-provoking on several fronts.

First, because that sentence above actually came out of my head, or fingers.  I wrote it.  Me.  Is this what I’ve become?  I “attend” things now?  “Lectures,” no less?  And I describe them as “thought-provoking”?  Whew, I am getting old, it appears.  This is a far cry from the Black Flag punk concert I attended, I mean, crashed at the Lost Horizon in Syracuse thirty years ago.  Well, in my defense, there was nothing particularly thought-provoking about the Black Flag concert.  If I even have the right band, genre and venue.  Like I said, I am getting old, it appears.

The second reason I say “thought-provoking” is due to where the lecture was delivered.  (There I go again, “delivered” a nod to my antiquated thinking.)

The talk was hosted by an organization called the Presidio Trust, a unique federal agency charged with transforming a former U.S. Army installation into a profitable arm of the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  Congress created the Presidio Trust in 1996 with the stern mandate of achieving financial independence from taxpayer support, else the lands would be auctioned off as excess federal property.  I suppose that had the Presidio Trust failed, we’d see parcels of the Presidio up for grabs on the U.S. General Services Administration’s website.  Right alongside aircraft, vessels, firearms, and animals.  An ornate, Civil War-era cannon pictured next to a riding lawnmower, a Surveying Ship, and an Extreme Fitness Leg Curl Machine — with a bright red “PLACE BID” button beckoning.

Fortunately, the Presidio Trust climbed into the black last year.  So instead of sitting in a virtual shopping cart belonging to a bargain hunter, that cannon stays where it is.  It and all the assets making up the Presidio belong to us, the public.

The third and final reason I say “thought-provoking” is the most obvious:  The content of the talk.  If this were a lecture on annual salamander migration, I probably wouldn’t be blogging about it.  No offense intended to people who study annual salamander migration, nor to the salamanders themselves, come to think of it.

The speaker, Richard Louv, is a journalist and author who preaches the importance of preserving the connection between kids and nature.  In his most recent book, he takes on the idea of balancing technology with the natural world.  For every hour of time your son has his face buried in his iPhone playing “Flappy Bird,” he should spend another hour untethered from the iPhone, outdoors, in search of an actual bird that actually flaps, for example.  Louv is of the opinion that the world will belong to those who can both configure their DNS server using an iPad and avoid a Brown Bear attack by developing the ability to recognize the bear’s fishy scent.

A “Hybrid Mind, ” he calls it.  MacGyver meets Bear Grylls, you might say.


In the immediate aftermath of Louv’s lecture, I admit to harboring some thoughts that were likely around the bend from what Louv had in mind.  Here’s one:

Let the boys out of the Prius at the far end of the Presidio, in the dark, and see if they can make it home a couple miles away on their own.  Without an iPhone, ClifBars, Odwalla smoothie, Petzl headlamp, or anything else smacking of modern comforts.  With only their wits to avoid being eviscerated by coyote or raccoon.  But then, I don’t think the sometimes-overzealous Park Ranger who spots them running through a Eucalyptus grove like wild animals would appreciate my parenting style.  Even if I explained to the Ranger that I got the idea from Richard Louv, whom the Presidio Trust hosted to give a talk in the Golden Gate Club just yesterday, right across Dragonfly Creek from where the Ranger took custody of my feral children.  Also, I think my boys’ pediatrician might not be amused by the Giardia parasites living in my boys’ bellies due to them drinking the water from said creek in their filthy, cupped hands.

So I have had to ratchet down my plans to avoid this whole thing careening into some mashup of Doomsday Preppers and Zombie Apocalypse.  Back away from the bug-out bags and canned spam, sir.

I have, however, upped their dosage of unstructured outdoor exposure.  Both Max and Ev run around outside, by my calculations, for 15 hours each week, give or take.  But I don’t think that counts, since those hours are spent within the confines of chalk-drawn rectangles and diamonds.  Not enough Bear Grylls.

So, since Louv’s lecture, we have hunted lizards on the Baker Beach Sand Ladder, identified bird calls and tree-types while circumventing Phoenix Lake, and studied sprouted acorns littering the trails of the Presidio itself.  Sounds bucolic, and just what the doctor ordered.  And indeed it was, so long as you can ignore the gaggle of 60 year-old nude men sunbathing at the foot of the sand ladder (conveniently cropped out of the photo at the top of this blog post), the 8 year-old’s whines whenever the Phoenix Lake trail’s pitch tilted up past perfectly flat, and the “dog poop shawl” our puppie fashioned and wore by rolling in other dogs’ poop somewhere along the trails of the Presidio.

Fortunately, I am an expert ignorer.  A pretty good maker of lemonade out of lemons, you might say. 🙂

Thanks for reading.