Archives For October 2013

Get Out!

October 29, 2013 — Leave a comment



Campiliciousness. Three seasons. Just tooooo good.

Even if we can’t go camping in a spectacular floating tree house right this minute, we can at least go outside during lunch. Step away from the computer. Leave the office. Turn off the cell phone. Take a stroll. Disengage.


Stupid rogue mosquito. It’s almost winter. Go South. Go Hot. Get out!!!

I hate mosquitoes. But they can’t get enough of me. Even when it’s frosty outside, they seek me out, like the one I squashed this morning that somehow made its way into my apartment. ON THE 11TH FLOOR.

It’s not an attraction I encourage, at least not consciously or intentionally.

In fact, there’s a big chance I can’t do much about this attention and that I was cursed before I was even born.

Scientists believe genetics account for 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites. Then there’s body chemistry. Certain chemicals found on the surface of my skin have them targeting or smelling or sensing me possibly from as far away as 50 meters. Could be I have high levels of cholesterol or could be that I’m highly efficient at processing cholesterol. Well, which one is it?! Either way, cholesterol is attractive to mosquitoes. As is uric acid. And lactic acid. And carbon dioxide. It’s possible that I’m a heavy breather. But I’m certainly not pregnant and producing higher levels of CO2. And I don’t even sweat that much, which means that I couldn’t possibly be emitting more lactic acid than that sweaty mess that never gets bitten. So WHY HUNT ME?

(Males don’t bite, only females, by the way.)

I’m going to put out my very (pseudo)scientific theory on this subject. Oh, this is fun for me.

Temperament. Let’s say mosquitoes are also attracted to temperament.

The Koreans and Japanese have a whole personality system (and lucrative industry) surrounding blood types—what you’re like, your temperament, compatibility (both romantic and platonic), what’s good for you to eat and drink and what you’re supposed to avoid. Different illnesses and ailments (mental and physical) you might be prone to. Much like zodiac signs, apparently in South Korea and Japan, people might ask what your blood type is. And there are a slew of blood type things to buy.



Bath Salts




And there’s even a Machine that dispenses Condoms based on your blood type.


I’m A+ (A is the most common blood type in Japan).

I was considering categorizing positive and negative, advantageous versus disadvantageous traits the way most of the sites have done that I encountered, but I tended to disagree with their system–one website put “perfectionist” in the negative column. Psht.

Anyhow, here’s a list of A+ traits I think those blood sucking creatures are drawn to:

Farmer, conservative, introverted, reserved, patient, punctual, perfectionists, obsessive, stubborn, classic Type A, self-conscious, uptight, considerate, loyal to a fault, secretive, reluctant to share feelings, like to forget reality, hide in own worlds due to romantic quality, stressed, conscientious, deep-rooted strength that helps stay calm in a crisis, shy, withdrawn, seek harmony, very polite, very responsible, very creative, most artistic of all blood types, if there’s a job to be done, prefer to take care of it themselves, don’t hold liquor well, ideal male mate, Type O, will not cheat on partners, best diet: vegetarian.

All pseudoscientific postulating aside: I really do hate mosquitoes. They’re not just annoying. They carry disease. About half the world’s population is at risk for malaria, impacting most the world’s poorest countries, according to the World Health Organization. “In 2010, there were an estimated 660,000 malaria deaths, 90% of which occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly among children under five years old.”

That’s no joke.

I’m hoping Faso Soap is able to get the funding they need from NGOs and others so they can release their “award-winning soap that tackles malaria” by 2015. The sooner the better, please.


For now, I’m happy Fall is here and Winter is coming soon and I don’t have that Four Tet song stuck in my head the way it is during the summer. But I guess it’s summer somewhere. So maybe I’ll close for now with that tune. It’s a good one.

THE END (sort of)

I couldn’t fit the below into the main post–too much information!!!–but I found it interesting. You might, too:

Austrian scientist Karl Landsteiner was widely credited with discovering the three blood types and establishing the ABO blood group system (1909) and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1930 for his work. Czech serologist Jan Janský, by the way, “had independently pioneered the classification of human blood into four groups,but Landsteiner’s independent discovery had been accepted by the scientific world while Janský remained in relative obscurity.”

Scientific Racism, the use of purportedly scientific techniques and hypotheses to support or justify the belief in racism, racial inferiority, or superiority.

Masahiko Nomi, a lawyer with no medical training, wrote several papers in the 1970s that garnered massive success in Japan on the subject of blood types. Check out this People archive from 1985: Fate Is Not in the Stars but in Your Blood, Says Toshitaka Nomi, Masahiko Nomi’s son.

Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo wrote a number of very successful books, including: Live Right 4 Your Type, and Eat Right 4 Your Type, published by Putnam.

I’m not sure what to make of this — I think it’s a mosquito video game?

Them Things

October 23, 2013 — Leave a comment


My mother has a small black dufflebag packed with medication, photos, and nicknacks. She keeps it behind the sofa in the living room in case the house catches fire or an earthquake strikes and she has to flee. My stepfather doesn’t have a bag. He said if he had to run out quickly, he’d grab the three fat cats, Lulu, Snider, and Inky, by the neck and that would be that.

They live in Southern California where fires and earthquakes have threatened their house several times over the years. The danger factor here in New York City based on immediate experiences would be terrorist attack and flooding.

I know what I’d grab. My laptop and backup hard drive. The books, photos, art, plants, guitar…I’d feel sadness. They’d be abandoned, destroyed. Would I risk my life for them? Hell no. I shouldn’t even be anthropomorphizing them as “them.” They’re more accurately “those things.”

Even my laptop, if it came down to the laptop or a limb, stands no chance. 90% of what I’ve saved on my laptop is pretty much junk anyhow and I’m certain I’d be able to produce more of that in a heartbeat and without a device.

Fortunately, I’m not in a constant state of duress and at the moment, not dealing with an imminent crisis or natural disaster. You’re probably not either. But we still ought to strive to live more simply, shouldn’t we?

I’m by nature not an acquirer of “things.” I don’t like clutter. My sister calls me a Neatnik. I rent a small space, live by myself, and have no children or pets. If I could, I’d be traveling the world. Put all of those things together, have a debate about nature versus nurture, and you’d come up with a set of reasonable arguments for why I wouldn’t have difficulty leaving behind material possession.

Graham Hill says it best: “We live in a world of surfeit stuff, of big-box stores and 24-hour online shopping opportunities. Members of every socioeconomic bracket can and do deluge themselves with products. There isn’t any indication that any of these things makes anyone any happier; in fact it seems the reverse may be true.” Read his New York Times article, Living With Less. A Lot Less.

You’ll gain a lot.

Since starting my new job over a month ago, I’ve had to accept the uncomfortable morning and evening subway commute with millions of others. Body parts touching strangers, elbows and backpacks poking my spine, loud talkers. Annoying but tolerable. But the smell of commuting? Unbearable. Noxious fumes of excessive cologne, missed showers, greasy sweaty hair, coffee breath, rancid unbrushed teeth, urine.

I’ve always been particularly responsive to the smells around me. Lately, I think I’ve started to obsess over them. Buying candles for my apartment, essential oils for my body… anything to counteract those other awful smells. I’ve been thinking about my friends. All of them, with the exception of one, who another friend once said, “could stand to use a bit more deodorant” smell really really good to me or, they simply don’t register as smelling like anything, which is perfectly fine with me.

Dr. Jim Pfaus, professor of psychology at Concordia University in Montreal, spends his time studying rats and their sexual response to smells. He believes that humans are similar to rats in their response to odors: “We’re not talking about pheromones, but odors. Real, honest to God odors that activate the main olfactory system to give you a stimulus. Scent is extremely powerful. You can’t tell me how many times you saw the color red yesterday, but smelling the smell of your first boyfriend will present you with a complete memory.”

Yesterday, I came upon this new thing available in Japan that piqued my curiosity: SCENTEE. New way of communication with aroma: Scentee attached to the earphone jack of your smartphone sprays the aroma for you. Enjoy the new sensation of playing with the aroma at any time anywhere!”


Knowing myself, mysmell, I probably wouldn’t like the aromas offered; I’m not too fond of artificial fresheners. Now, if the Scentee folks came up with a device that could allow me to relive some of my Instagram photos–especially the #foodporn and #beautifulcountry ones. Well, that would be something. Turns out, that something isn’t so far fetched.

The Madeleine: A camera that captures scents instead of sights.


Designer Amy Radcliff, for her graduate project at London’s Central Saint Martin’s, created a prototype for “an analogue odor camera” that would use perfumery technology called Headspace Capture to harness scent. “Instead of recording light information the way that a camera would to recreate an image, her proposed device would record the molecular information contained in an odor.”

I’ll end with this possibility, this dream. Fingers and toes crossed this becomes available in my lifetime. I’m rooting for you, Amy Radcliff!


There are two things I throw in during conversations once in a while. Not often but sometimes. Usually when the topic under discussion involves blame or fault, whining, and cowardice. And the person’s annoying me.

Pilot in Command (PIC) and Cockpit Management (CM or CRM: Cockpit Resource Management).

For me, the two go hand in hand. I both celebrate and curse the first time I learned and was held responsible for knowing and executing these terms. They’ll save your life, my instructor (CFI), Paul, an ex-navy carrier pilot, drilled in me.

Only once have I had to exercise my right as PIC when I was in the air. I was a student pilot, on a solo flight over Santa Susana Pass, requesting landing at Van Nuys airport. The air traffic controller had me in a holding pattern over the Los Angeles Aqueduct since there was an airshow going on and traffic was particularly heavy–the most I’ve ever experienced.

Eventually, I was cleared to land on Runway 16R but realized soon that the traffic wasn’t as clear as I wanted it to be–given my skill level. There was a Piper Arrow too close for comfort and several old fancy acrobatic planes nearby. I communicated that I was a student pilot to ATC and he seemed to ignore me and repeated that I was clear to land. I stayed in my holding pattern and asked to be vectored in. He grunted and sighed and after maybe 10 minutes, the airspace was clear and he vectored me in.

The FAA‘s FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations), Part 91.3, on Responsibility and authority of pilot in command, states that:

(a) The pilot in command is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft;

(b) In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency;

(c) Each pilot in command who deviates from a rule under paragraph (b) of this section shall, upon the request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator.

When I landed, Paul was having a nasty conversation with someone who I quickly realized was an administrator from the Tower. Apparently the air show was delayed 20 minutes because of me. Paul was cursing at the guy telling him he was an idiot and that I had every right to be vectored in whether the airshow had to wait 20 minutes or the entire day. Paul spoke over the guy and kept repeating the same question: Dead bodies or pretty formations? Dead bodies or pretty formations?




On the ground, PIC and Cockpit Management have become sort of shorthand for the approach I take to pretty much everything I do. Not that I explicitly call out these terms every time I’m choosing perfume or making my bed in the morning. Though, when I think about it now, even the small things I do (which seem to make the most significant impact in my world) still lead back to PIC and Cockpit Management. Especially in situations where I’ve found myself waffling, or rationalizing some mistake I’ve made or continue to make.

Lesson in Cockpit Management

  • Good CM starts with having and utilizing the appropriate checklist
  • Make sure all charts and materials are organized and placed in the order of use
  • GPS & Nav/Comm wires are routed neatly
  • All loose items are properly secured

Proper and orderly maintenance of records that reflect the progress of the flight

  • Flight plan form and pen/pencil

Proper use and/or adjustment of such cockpit items such as safety belts, shoulder harnesses, rudder pedals, and seats

  • Seat belts should be snug but not so tight they are restrictive
  • Seat should be adjusted and locked in place prior to engine start
  • Adjustable rudder pedals or other controls that are adjustable should also be set prior to engine start

Occupant briefing on emergency procedures and use of safety belts

  • How to fasten and unfasten seatbelts and shoulder harness if equipped, and must notify them to do so before you taxi, takeoff, or land
  • Procedures in case of an off airport landing, how to open the doors and where the exits are located
  • Determine how or if they can assist in the event of an emergency

Cockpit Management common problems

Failure to place and secure essential materials and equipment for easy access in-flight

  • Do not get in the habit of using the dashboard as a storage area
  • Fumbling through charts can cause a dangerous distraction
  • Loose items can fly through the cockpit and cause distractions or injury if turbulence is encountered

Failure to maintain accurate records essential to the progress of the flight

  • Causes disorientation and results in lack of situational awareness
  • Makes handling emergencies more difficult

Improper adjustment of equipment and controls

  • Seat can move back during rotation and make aircraft control difficult or impossible
  • Full or even adequate control movement may be difficult or impossible

CM is more than just an organized cockpit

  • Communication. Good speaking and listening skills
  • Decision making and problem solving. Approach problems in a logical and definitive manner. Do it right and do it now
  • Situational awareness. Knowledge of where and what the airplane is doing
  • Standardization. Checklists and flow procedures
  • Leader/Follower. A leader will manage the resources that contribute to safe flight, and a follower won’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Psychological Factors. Attitude, Personality, and Motivation
  • Planning Ahead. Anticipation and preparation for emergencies
  • Stress Management. Life is full of stress, don’t bring it into the cockpit

Takeaway? Be aware and prepare, own your actions, break the rules when you need to. You down wit’ PIC? Yeah you know ME! I’m down wit’ PIC…


October 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

Today I received a text message alerting me that I have a voicemail message on my Google Voice number. The last time I used that number was maybe six months ago for a little side business I have. The transcribed text message went like so:

Hey, no, it’s not have a chance, call me, Steve right now.

Steve? Crap. I couldn’t remember my password. I know one Steve and he wouldn’t know my google number. Chance? Am I missing out on some opportunity? Fortunately, after a few minutes of birthdays, favorite numbers, and food reference combinations I finally got in.

Hello, this is Nachman, call me please, now.

Granted, my landlord, Nachman, is a low-talking mumbler. But goodness. Rather, googlemess.

I’ve always been fascinated by translation, especially free online translators like Yahoo’s babblefish, bing translator, which I’ve used casually to remind me of words or phrases from languages I no longer practice regularly. But I never ever take these sort of quick translations to heart. Most of the time the translated version is such a ridiculous jumbled mess that I end up having to translate the translation.


I suppose you could make a case for these sorts of tools being at least a start. The thing is, words alone are just a start. There’s so much more to communication and comprehension–the nuances of culture and context that can make or break a thought, belief, argument–story–you want to convey or likewise, comprehend. I’ve found (the hard way) that all of those things are important but there’s always more to consider.

There’s this example I use to express this “more” thing in behavior. It’s from a book I worked on years ago: Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct, by P. M. Forni. In one section, P. M. describes a scenario he presents to his students (he’s a professor at Johns Hopkins). He asks the students to imagine having dinner out with some friends. One friend, he says, asks another to pass the salt. P. M. stops there and asks each of his students to react. What would he or she do? What would you do? Uh, pass the salt?… is the usual response. Well, in P. M.’s world, one doesn’t just pass the salt. Pass the salt and the pepper.

What P. M. is teaching his students, teaching us, is that the way to successful communication comes from understanding the mindset of the person even before you’ve met them. Consider their outlook, wants, needs. Then the story you put out might resonate enough to start changing that mindset.

It’s simple. Let’s all pass the salt and the pepper.

Apocalyptus Weekend

October 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

I spent the weekend in Fallsburg in Sullivan Valley. Nine of us gathered there to celebrate a friend’s birthday at a weekend getaway house. The house is part of “a bungalow colony” where locals and Russians co-exist. I learned many of the Russians had built a banya (sauna) in their homes. One resident, married to a Korean woman, transformed his home into a fully decked out banya for others–like our party–to rent out.

I’m a newcomer to this group. Most of them grew up together in Sheepshead Bay and all of them–with the exception of one, a lovely Brazilian woman who married one of the guys–were born to Russian-speaking parents.

I had a spectacular time. Admittedly, I’m still…struggling. It may be a few days before I fully recover from the decadent consumption punctuated with daytime excursions that served as an attempt (FAILED) for us to not feel like fat hungover sloths.

The birthday boy, quite the enthusiastic itinerary builder, scheduled visits to farmers markets, a short train ride on the historic Catskill Mountain Railroad (kinda meh next to the gorgeous drive enroute to the train station), and what I would’ve described as a tame hike through Mohonk Preserve were it not for some anticsBOYS-WILL-BE-BOYS-53014 that resulted in a missed jump and an injured heel. I still can’t fathom how, after our first night spent into the wee morning hours around the firepit, two of our group–golf obsessed–managed to roll out of bed before 7:30am to play several rounds at The Lochmor Golf Course (this involved, by the way, a harrowing experience with a possessed golf cart that left both of them traumatized and literally white knuckling the Oh Sh** bar for the remaining weekend every time we traveled in the car).

I can’t remember most of the minutia of that first night we spent around the firepit and as hard as I try, I’m missing some details of the brief anecdote told by the birthday boy that left me in stitches because of the punch line: Apocalyptus. In his anecdote one of their friends, female, used apocalyptus to describe what their banya needed, what they needed to make the experience better. She said apocalyptus but everyone realized soon that she was talking about eucalyptus–eucalyptus oil. I’m dedicating this post and this weekend to apocalyptus. To the new and to the nonsensical that somehow manages to ultimately make absolute perfect sense.