Friday, August 31, 2012

An Open Letter to Mr. Buffett

Mr. Warren Buffett
3555 Farnam Street
Suite 1440
Omaha, NE 68131

August 31, 2012

Dear Mr. Buffett,

I must start this letter by admitting that I do not currently own any shares of Berkshire Hathaway, INC.  I do however, find your investment strategy (find something good and make lots of money off of it) and your philanthropic strategy (give most of that made money away) to be inspirational and exactly what we should expect from leaders in our country.

But this open letter is not about big issues or strategy.  It is about one of your investments and why I believe you found it to be such a worthwhile place to park some coin over a finite period of time: Brooks Sports.

As you can tell from above, I have been a fan of yours for quite some time.  My mother taught me from a young age to respect the power of Berkshire and your strategies behind its power. She purchased a share back in the day, and made a handsome profit on that investment. She regularly says she "could kick herself" for selling that one share when the investment doubled, but it was still one of the best investments she ever made. It serves as a fantastic learning opportunity for us all.

I have been a fan of Brooks for a shorter period of time. After running a in a few different kinds of shoes, I discovered the Adrenaline GTS 11s.  These shoes were both light but supportive of my extremely flat feet.  However, like most shoe companies, Brooks updates its shoes every year so to make us runners have to change into new shoes.  Granted we run through on average 2.6 pairs a year, but I don't like having to get new shoes after I find a pair I like.

So when Brooks came out with Adrenaline GTS12s with a cartoon of you on it sole I knew I had to own these shoes.  These shoes were made especially for your last shareholder meeting. Not being a shareholder, it took some work to procure those shoes.

I called the only shoe store in the country with pairs of these shoes and ordered them to be sent first class mail from Omaha to San Francisco.

Good running investment?
I was then a proud owner of the Buffetts.  And they were great for about 125 miles of running.

Two Hours and Fifty-something

In today's installment of why I hate politics I would like to focus on a lie that any marathoner can spot. In that this post is really about running, you don't get an early exit puppy link.
In an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt last week, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said he's run a sub-3:00 marathon.

In the interview, after Ryan told Hewitt that he ran in high school, Hewitt asked if Ryan still runs. Ryan replied, "Yeah, I hurt a disc in my back, so I don't run marathons anymore. I just run ten miles or less." When Hewitt asked Ryan what his personal best is, Ryan replied, "Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something." Source: Runner's World (Updated at 7:20pm with new info.)
I call bullshit, Mr. Ryan. If you ran a Boston Qualifying marathon, either with this year's or last year's rules, you would remember where it was, the weather, how you felt at mile 22, what you wore and for sure you would remember your exact time.

Ryan's finish line photo
I don't believe runners are a significant voting block so this won't matter much. But this kind of crap is a sure way to piss us off. These are PERSONAL records and should be held as point of pride.

My first marathon was completed in 5:00:03 and I am proud of that. It stood as my personal best time until I ran my second marathon, where I cut nearly an hour off my time with a 4:00:11 marathon.  Believe me I would remember my 2:50ish marathon for sure.  And I am not alone; we all remember how we did in that PR race.
NYC Marathon 2010, Owning 5:00:03

It is one thing to lie to me about medicare funding (which you did) or even about the President's record (which you did).  But don't lie to me about your marathon times you blowhard. You are no longer a guy with a big heart from a small town; you are on the main stage.  Mr. Ryan, you have graduated to the big leagues and now you need to run a clean race and finish, but not make up your times. When you came up fast from the back bench of Congress people were impressed with your P90X routine and your boyish good looks, but that doesn't cut it anymore.

Step-up and lead, or get off the course.

Fine, here is a puppy link.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Word of the Day is Liar

Puppy Link

When I was in fifth grade, my class took a trip to Sacramento to do gold rush stuff, take pictures, and eat too much candy in Old Town Sac. But there are two things that I remember most from this trip.  My dad came along as a chaperone and we watched a comedy show, which I think was In Living Color, in which they spoofed a kids' show with a word of the day.

The word of the day was liar. L I A R, Liar.  The bit was way above my head at the time but the adults who were in the room thought it was really funny, and the kids just laughed along.

This is a long way of saying that the spelling of liar in that sing-song kids' show way was ringing through my head while reading Paul Ryan's speech from last night. (Yeah, I don't watch. I just read in the morning. Better than coffee to get you moving.)

But this morning the liberal Internets exploded with claims of FOX News calling Ryan a liar. This claim is just a lazy and untruthful as his speech.

Sally Kohn, an opinion contributor to FOX News' website, is a left-wing, community-organizing, feminist with a history of working for foundations and organizations that support equality for LGBT Americans. Sounds like the typical FOX News contributor, right?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Report: Gentlemen of the Road

I have never read a book for pleasure so quickly.  In less than a week I flew through Chabon's 2007 adventure fiction, Gentlemen of the Road and think I loved every second of it.

The story is fast moving but written in Chabon's typically grand style.  Considering the tempo of the story, the multi-page sentence structure does not work for speed at which the narrative unfolds.  There were a number of places that required me to go back a few pages to make sure I read the storyline correctly...and most times I did not, which took a bit of the fun out of the page turning.

However, other than being well written, this book was great.  An easier read than Chabon's other novels but equally entertaining. I came to Chabon late and read The Yiddish Policemen's Union first, so I came to expect his books to be historically interesting and well-researched. 

Yet after reading the Afterward in my edition of this book, I learned that Chabon didn't write much out of his comfort zone of his own life prior to this book. It seemed effortless to me, but I am sure it was a labor of love and it came across as such in pages of this book. 

I have no need to provide a re-cap or analysis beyond that this was a good choice and I will be picking up The Amazing Aventures of Kavalier & Clay after I read some depressing stuff about the Spanish Civil War.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Published in a Book

Almost two years ago, I was contacted by a woman who was working on her Master's thesis on 20's and 30's Jewish life in America.  I had written a pretty easy going post on the in-your-face Jewschool blog about joining Shaaray Tefila, my New York congregation, and its young adult program JeTSeT's Shabbat Unplugged and this student was interested in using the post for her work.

Sure, go for it. It would be my honor.  She then asked if she could put it in her book.  I said great! Thanks.  That was December of 2010.

A few weeks ago, I got an email saying that the book was out.  I looked at the cover, recognized a number of friends and "Liked" their links on Facebook but didn't think I was in the book because I didn't remember anything besides the brief interactions in October and December of 2010. 

Today, I thought, I should check to see who else made the final cut for the book.  And I found my name on the contributor's list.  A nice way to start a Monday.

Unplugging Expectations, By Donald C. Cutler
So I am now a published author. 

You may want to buy this book.  So here is the link: Living Jewishly: A Snapshot of Generation.

I have yet to get my copy, and I look forward to reading the other essays, but I got to say I am pretty proud that my essay made it into print.  I have written a lot of this subject and had another blog post (which I think is better) that was published on on a very similar topic around the same time. The more we learn about engagement of younger people in the Jewish community, the better we will be in the longer term. And if my point of view will help make our communities and congregations stronger, then I am a very pleased, published author.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Look at all the social medias NYRR gives

Early this morning, the New York Road Runners announced that due to overwhelmingly negative reviews of the post-marathon park exit that it was instituting "a new No-Baggage Policy designed to ease finish-line congestion and provide a better and safer post-race experience [and] as a result, you will no longer be able to check baggage at the start of the race and there will be no baggage retrieval after the finish."

Needless to say this did not go over well.  NYRR was trending on Twitter in New York.  The Wall Street Journal,* New York Times, Runner's World and countless blog post reported on or fueled the controversy.  I know the New York Daily News is also planning a significant story on the topic.  The NYRR Facebook page exploded with negative comments, many of them very funny and some just down right mean. 

My thoughts exactly Fred. (Via Kevin Beganics)
Now my views on this are simple: This is a bad idea. But that is not what I am taking away from today's events.  What I see is the power of social media to create a ground swell and still have no impact.  Hear me out on this one, considering I am blogging about it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

These little town blues

This past weekend included 15 eating and drinking establishments, at least seven different kinds of beer, a lot of Mexican food of varying degrees of authenticity, and that piece of New York Pizza.  It also included a two month-old, old friends, a set of parental units, paint cans, a flee market, 16 miles in Central Park, and mid-town lunch specials. The only place something like that could take place in what amounted to three-and-half day vacation is in the best city in the world: New York City.

Some background:
  1. The wife and I have not been on a non-wedding/non-visiting hometown vacation since our honeymoon.  This is not to say that these other trips weren't fun or we couldn't relax during them, but there is something to be said about this luxury of a "real" vacation.
  2. San Francisco is a nice town.  There is good food and the people are nice, but it is not a city and it is very slow. Stuff closes too early, it isn't easy to get around, and there are no good bagels. This isn't to say we don't like it here, but we should be honest, it pales in comparison to New York.  Anyone who says otherwise either has not lived in New York or couldn't cut it in New York.
  3. Going on vacation to your old home is strange. But at least you don't have to pretend you are getting the inside scoop on the local spots by asking the bellmen where they eat. Right, because those guys aren't told where to tell you to go by the same people providing information (and tips) to the concierge.
Now that I got that out of the way, here is what went down.

Monday, August 13, 2012

My First Music Festival - Outside Lands, a review

This weekend I went to the three day musical bonanza that is Outside Lands, and thanks to very generous connections, the wife, the sister, and I all were VIPs for the weekend.  This afforded us two very important things: seating for the main stage and access to clean bathrooms.  While the seating was nice, the bathrooms made the event.

Music - In the Park
The music was good too.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Report: Running the Rift

Naomi Benaron's well researched and beautifully written book was impossible to put down.  Following the story of a young boy through school, running, and genocide in his native Rwanda, Running the Rift is a great book.

As a student of international politics and the West's abject failures during the Rwandan Genocide, as well as a runner, I found this book to be a painfully perfect historical fiction.  While you know what happens, and if you don't you need to do some research, you can't stop reading and must know what happens next.  The interpersonal relationships are complex, real, and haunting.  The political realities of a neo-colonial Africa are presented without pretense, even when presented by a white American woman.

Benaron explores the real impact and long term effects of European definitions and divisions on neighbors and families. The nationalism felt by all was overpowered by myth that was eternal even if it was perpetuated by European colonialists.  The powerlessness of moderation over extremists was defeating.  Only the extremist tendencies of Jean Patrick -- which were positive in nature, but extreme all the same -- gave a reader hope for the future.

Benaron's inclusion of a degree of fiction in the form of love blunted the harsh realities of the early 1990s in this small central African nation.  The love story, which honestly didn't seem very believable, enabled me to read this book before bed without nightmares.  However, it was the many stories lines of humanity, which remind you that while reading this horrific history, people tend to be good, even in times of extreme evil.

5 out of 5 stars. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mile By Mile

Like raising a child, running a marathon takes a village.  And in some cases a city.

Two weeks ago, my new city hosted its marathon.  It was a well run event.  It started way too early.  And no one was on the streets for these people.

Running 26.2 miles is dumb and yet we continue to do it.  Personally I feed off the crowds.  In 2010 the only reason I crossed the finish line without being dead was because of the people along the route.  The Lululemon team on the final stretch of the Philly Marathon was just the boost I needed to make it through the last 6 miles, even if there were no water stations when I needed them.

But for some reason, this great running/biking/fitness town does not come out to support its runners.

That was sad. I don't have much else to say about it but here is a picture of me cheering with my SFRRC friends, Susan and Laura. 

We were at mile 24 with one other person...WOOOOOO!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sometimes you just want pizza

There has been a lot going on since I last wrote a blog post.

The Olympics and the craptastic coverage NBC has provided, especially here on the West Coast.  A CEO of a chicken restaurant started a family values revolution, boycott, and counter-boycott.  A number of my chums ran and PR'ed the San Francisco Marathon.  All of these things are things I would often write about and try to find some real useful, perhaps even insightful, thing to say about them.

But sometimes you just want pizza and that is the only thing you can think about.