Lenovo x60s EVDO is awesome

Blogging on the taxiway at Philadelphia on my way to Raleigh this morning. Completely excellent experience not being dependent on the local wi-fi bandits for airport connectivity. Coverage is excellent — I picked up the EVDO signal in Cotuit this morning — and the price, if one takes the $70 per month flat fee all-you-can-eat plan, is easily amortized against airport wi-fi charges at $7 each. Hats off to Verizon for being so aggressive in EVDO. This is going to shake up T-Mobile’s wi-fi franchise.

Downside is battery life suffers. I need to upgrade to an eight-cell LI-ION to get more usage out of the system. Down to minutes now and watching the power meter like the gas gauge on a Hummer.

The Temple of Pizza – Sally’s

I introduced my son to Sally’s Apizza in New Haven last night. This is, according to many pizza freaks, the best pizza on the planet, one of those subjective designations that will spark many a debate among food geeks and their sub-genus, pizza geeks, for the rest of time.

If you check out the wikipedia entry on Pizza, you will see that Sally’s and its Wooster Street neighbor, Frank Pepe’s, are not the original pizza parlors in America, but, being in operation since the 1920s and 30s, among the earliest in the nation. Sally’s followed Pepe’s — Sal Consiglio was a nephew of Pepe and started a dozen years later.

I prefer Sally’s because they burn the crust — black lips and fingers are the sign of a Sally’s dining experience — and the carbon-enhanced taste, while hard to imagine as a positive, is indeed the signature of a Sally’s pie. I also prefer Sally’s because it’s the place where my New Haven pizza experience began in 1977, with a bunch of classmate, crowded into the same booth. The large cheese pie came out on a big paper-lined pan — no plates — and the instant I bit into the first slice I was able to declare: “This is the best f—ing pizza I have ever eaten.” The hour-long lines one usually has to endure is testament to this fact.

We lucked out last night — we breezed right into a booth, no wait, probably because Yale is finished for the year and there aren’t any hungry students contending for seats.

We started with a medium pepperoni apizza (it’s “apizza” in New Haven and you have to specify mozzarella else you get a crust with tomato sauce), moved onto a classic cheese, an ordered another pepperoni to go. My son the skeptic, who told me the build up was a bit excessive on my part, agreed, one second into his first, bite, that it was indeed “the best f—ing pizza” in the world. When we arrived in Cotuit at 11 pm with the cold pie you’d of thought we were bringing the rarest delicacy in the world home with us.

As of 8 this morning the pie was gone, the victim of a cold pizza breakfast. (apologies for the sucky cameraphone pic)

Slice

Slice is a great pizza blog that has been in my blogroll for two months:

I’m a major pizza binge lately; both eating and cooking it. Trying to hit the best of the best and this blog tracks them. Going to college in New Haven spoiled me with Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s. Proximity to NYC, Providence and Boston’s Pizzaria Regina and Santarpios has me looking for more real temples to pie.

On Playlists and Ergometers- Favorite Things

Scrolling through my Nano on the plane(black, 4 gb, already scratched), I realized that there is one playlist — consisting of twenty songs — which I have listened to, nearly every day, for the last ten years. It’s titled ERG II and it is a masterpiece of musical ugliness.

Any fan of the John Cusack film, High Fidelity, (an excellent soundtrack and great example of the perfect mix) has heard the protagonist’s theory of building musical mixes. In the old days — pre-MP3 and shuffle mode — the perfect mix was defined by what would fix on a 90-minute Maxell cassette. One would drag out the old vinyl, or use a double-cassette deck to dub a mix for that upcoming road trip or as a cheapo birthday gift with a personal touch. Twenty-year olds in the 80s depended on mix tapes as a prime gift source. There are some lost mix tapes in my past that were true gems — I remember a reggae mix that was universally acclaimed for its brilliance, compiled by my musician brother Henry when he did a University of Colorado reggae radio show under the air name of Highly Unlikely, the Redneck Rasta. Alas it is lost. Victim of being parked on a dashboard on a sunny summer day.

The art of the 90-minute mix was taken to a new high by Time Editorial Mandarin Norm Pearlstein in the early 90s when he set out to build the ultimate 90-minute rock mix. Think about it — what would have to reside on the perfect mix? Would you open with Bill Haley and the Comets? Would Elvis make it? What Beatles song? What Stones? This is the sort of metaphysical argument that can whittle down the tedium of a long car ride faster than a hundred games of Twenty-Questions.

But I Digress (I want to launch a new blog just under that title). Back to ERG II. This mix was born in 1994 when I decided to get into kickass shape and return to rowing. I bought the world’s finest piece of exercise equipment, a Concept 2 Model C Rowing Ergometer, and started seriously training, posting my scores on Concept 2 Online Ranking site and getting very competitive out in the garage with virtual opponents like the legendary Ad Bax, and other names with faster times than me.

erg

Ergometers are hellish beasts, they are the sort of machines that a NASA flight surgeon would use to determine the VO2 Max level of a candidate for the first mission to Mars. Olympic rowers hate them but live on them. College rowers make their boats largely on the basis of their scores. The machines are so simple, but so accurate, that an entire sport — Indoor Rowing — has taken grip, with non-rowers competing against “water” rowers in massive indoor championships like the CRASH-B sprints and the European Indoor Rowing Championships.

You can’t read while erging. Your head is swinging back and forth and you can’t take your hands off of the handle to turn the page of a magazine or book. So music is the answer. I started off in the mid-90s listening to highly syncopated Disco or House music, relying on mix tapes in a Sony Sportswalkman, the unit shoved down the back of my sweaty rowing shorts and the wire run up the inside of my t-shirt and out the neck so I wouldn’t run over it with the wheeled seat. The problem with old analog mix tapes is they can’t be easily edited. So I’d be flying along, cranking away at 30 strokes a minute, maintaining a 1:45 split at the end of a 30 minute piece, driving hard to break 8,300 meters and move up a notch on the virtual ladder, when the snappy songs would give way to some horrible sap music like James Taylor crying about Fire and Rain. It was the athletic equivalent of seeing a naked old person.

Then came the MiniDisc — a nice little format that at the very least was good for building custom mixes. I soon discovered the Napster thing in its earliest days, and started trolling other people’s hard disks for true erg music.

md

What resulted, over the next ten years, was ERG II. The music on ERG II is best characterized as demented head banger. This is not easy listening. This is music for people in anaerobic shock, people pretending to be human motors, nut jobs who like to pretend they are diesel engines in a diving U-boat escaping a British corvette dropping depth charges. Indeed, a look at the set list shows a lot of songs about misery and suffering.

First the list, then an expiation of why they are on the iPod and why they are essential to a proper ergometer session, a workout that usually takes anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to complete.

  1. Scum of the Earth: Rob Zombie
  2. Who Was in My Room Last Night: The Butthole Surfers
  3. Jesus Built my Hot Rod: Ministry
  4. Ain’t my Bitch: Metallica
  5. Rusty Cage: Soundgarden
  6. Sex Type Thing: Stone Temple Pilots
  7. New World Order: Ministry
  8. Hey Man, Nice Shot: Filter
  9. My Own Summer – Deftones
  10. Astro-Creep: White Zombie
  11. Them Bones: Alice in Chains
  12. Time Bomb: Godsmack
  13. Blizzards, Buzzards, Bastards: Scissorfight
  14. Du Hast: Rammstein
  15. God Save the Queen: Sex Pistols
  16. You Think I’m Not Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire, Queens of the New Stone Age
  17. Jump Around: House of Pain
  18. Liberate: Slipknot
  19. She Sells Sanctuary: The Cult
  20. California Uber Alles: The Dead Kennedys

This is not easy listening. Women hate this music. Children dig it and slam dance instinctfully to it. Play it through ordinary speakers and the neighbors will call the cops. Guaranteed. This is music soccer hooligans and skin heads listen to before beering up and terrorizing the 5:15 from Manchester to Leeds. Music to drive drunk to, a soundtrack for vandalism, music for a LA highway highspeed chase with the helicopters hovering overhead. This is not Michael Bolton, American Idol music. But if you want to bust a nut and get all jiggly with your theoretical maximum heart rate, this is the music for you. My son calls it Stoner Industrial. I call it Ergathon.

This is not my favorite music. That would be Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. This is what I just happen to listen to every day, for 45 minutes.

What the music has in common, aside from lead singers who sing like the Cookie Monster, is a particular beat that ties nicely to the cadence of a rowing stroke. For those who have not pulled on an oar, just think in terms of fours.

The stroke consists of the catch, when you’re all scrunched up with your knees around your ears and your arms outstretched, coiled for a rolling horizontal squat jump — the drive, when your legs do most of the work and send you rolling back on the rail, the finish, when your back and upper body and arms take over and bring the oar handle into your lap, and then, gratefully, the one moment of slight rest, the recovery, when you roll back down the slide to start it all over again.

Some rowers, and I am unfortunately one, count. Like Rainman, I count. It’s an old bad habit. The coach would say through his megaphone: “Build in four to full power to a 34 for two minutes.” Which, translated, means, in four strokes I want you start honking as hard as you can 34 strokes a minute for two minutes. And then I’d start counting, one-two-three-four on every stroke, then another count for the strokes pulled, so at stroke number 68, I’d know I could ease off and pant for dear life to get some air into my lungs.

These songs are great for the four count. You can really get moving to the music, breathing twice on every stroke for syncopation’s sake, once at the catch, the other at the finish.

The problem is racing. Those events are 2,000 meters long and last, if one is REALLY fast and in Olympian condition, around 6 minutes. My fastest time is under 6:30, like 6:24 at my last CRASH-B sprints (the true world championships of indoor rowing, the acronym stands for the Charles River Association of Sculling Has-Beens). The problems of listening to a real psych-up song during a 2,000 meter race are manifold. One, you have your hands full of oar handle and can’t be dicking around with iPod buttons before the start. Second, you can’t start a song and sit there, the good parts will be playing while you wait for the starting signal. And finally, who records six and a half minute songs?

So, this set list is a training list, and sure, after a while it gets old, but like the order of the songs on a favorite CD, I always know what is next, and have mixed the sequence to perfectly coincide with the predictable phases of an ergometer workout.

There’s the first five minutes, which are usually kind of a bummer because I’m not warmed up, I dread the hell to come, and some weird aerobic transfer phase has to kick in, which generally happens right around ten minutes when the sweat cocks get turned on and I begin to turn into Aqua Man. At 15 minutes things are getting interesting. The heart rate is over 160 and it’s time to decide whether this piece is going to be one for the books, or just another good day of exercise. If I cross 4,000 meters at 15 minutes, then the good news is I am fast, the bad news is I have to do 4,000 plus in the next 15 minutes to make the 30 minute piece notable. It’s at twenty minutes that one enters the phase of utter desperation — what my erg buddy Dr. Dan calls “The Talk with God” when you start bargaining with yourself and slicing time into 15 second increments, doing frantic math in your head and trying to solve a hopeless equation of how many more strokes need to be yanked, at what split (pace) to overtake the next loser on the online ladder.

This would not be considered a musical listening experience like settling in for Yo-Yo Ma playing Schubert’s Trout Quarter.

I hate my erg. Love my Nano, and pavlovian creature of habit that I am, listen to ERG II (Erg I is lost to time) even when not erging, like now, on the 6:10 Delta from Raleigh to Cinncinati, the noise leaking out of the ear buds causing some suspicious sideways glances from the tired looking propeller salesman in the aisle seat.

The Biggest Skiff Race Ever – July 30

The Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club is the oldest junior yacht club in the United States. Formed in 1906, it’s bylaws restrict voting membership to unmarried young people under the age of 21. It is also the heart and soul of summer life in the village of Cotuit and played a very important role in my life through the years.

2006 is the centennial of the CMYC’s formation and to mark the occasion an all-hands effort is being waged to get as many of the club’s fleet on the water for a massive race on July 30.

The invitation came in the mail last week and was not addressed to me, but to my boat, the Chugworm, number 19, built in the late 1940s by my grandfather, Henry Chatfield Churbuck.

I have a page about the Cotuit Skiff — or “Mosquito” — as the design was once called, elsewhere on Churbuck.com. It is allegedly one of the oldest one-design racing boats continiuously raced in America. A strange hybrid that has the rig of a Cape Cod catboat — mast stepped in the prow, gaff-rigged sail, no jib — but the flat-bottomed hull of a classic clamming skiff.

They are terrifying boats to sail in a breeze, but beautiful to behold when a fleet of them comes running down the Narrows on a Sunday afternoon in August.

Photo Courtesy of Woneffe.com

The fleet has undergone a wonderful renaissance in the past twenty years, reborn thanks to modern materials and the love of their classic lines by owners devoted, at any expense, to saving their boats from the indignities of the barn to sail again. My famly has two, both built by my grandfather in the boat shop attached to my house here in Cotuit, so there is no question we will be out there sailing next summer.

I’m sure there will be photos and I will be sure to blog about it.

There is nothing in the world like a Fresh Thinkpad

I took advantage of the fantastic employee purchase program and ordered two Thinkpads for the Churbuck students — both are getting Z60Ms. The boxes arrived today and are being installed in between conference calls and work stuff.

Thinkpad Z60M

Nice machine — widescreens.

Let us now praise good clam rakes

This is prime clamming season. Water is cold and I can hit the spots that get closed by the Barnstable Department of Natural Resources on May 1 when the bird poop will make the clams a bit of an intestinal crap shoot. Call it the Townie’s Perogative, but he who gets on the water early, gets the clams. I try to pick the inshore flats clean before the tourists raze them in the warmer weather.

Last spring I took stock of my tired, rusty clamming equipment and decided to borrow my step-father’s stainless rake. What a revelation! Nice rake, cut through the mud nicely. So I went in search of a similar one, ran a Google search on Cape Cod Clam Rakes and found R.A. Ribb in Harwich. I called Ribb and they had an 11-tooth, stainless rec rake with a 6` ash handle. Off I went, down Route 6 to exit 11, banged a left and took the second right. At the end of the cul de sac was a quaint old Cape house with a weathered sign that read “Ribb.”

The crew at Ribb

In the shed behind the house was a machine shop filled with huge metal working machinery. Inside the door was my rake. A quick credit card transaction for $87 later, and I was going home with a sweet implement of clam death.

Clams Beware

This is a fine tool. I blast the tines with some WD-40 to keep them from rusting off. It made my old clam basket look positively ghetto, so off I went to Sandwich Ship Supply for a new one, a couple nice shucking knives and the annual copy of Eldridge’s Tide Tables.

On Bowties – My Favorite Things

I am a big bow-tie wearer. Have been since the early years at Forbes, driven in part by a Cotuit cultural gestalt — reinforced by Boston Yankees in general — that bowties are de rigeur.

 

Led by the estimable Hon. Charles B. Swartwood III, aka Brownie, and emulated by other stalwart Cotuit Skiff sailors such as Phil Odence and Lincoln Jackson, and seen elsewhere around the neck of my daughter’s godfather, Charles Clapp III (roman numerals are an essential accessory to bowties), I joined the fad and learned how to tie a bowtie.

Tying a bowtie is the big barrier to entry for most would be tyers. I just laid on a bed, closed my eyes, and pretended my head was a shoe and I was tying the laces. The result was the Elephant Man of bowties (I am not an animal, I am a human being …), but with some careful adjustment and tuning it began to resemble something like those worn by George Will and the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan.

 

Now bowties are the middle-finger of male fashion. They provoke violent reactions of hatred from certain quarters. While interviewing for a job with a Wall Street investment firm, I was told bluntly that the bowtie had to go, that it represented invidualism and eccentricity that was not going to wash with clients.

I didn’t take that job.

Another time I was riding on an elevator in New York with a friend and his Danish girlfriend. Danes apparently are the most multi-lingual people on the planet (I will check that factoid). Our fellow passengers began to speak and then laugh in an undetermined Scandanvian language.

At the conclusion of the elevator ride the Danish girlfriend sharply (heatedly) addressed the strangers in their own tongue. Their faces went from surprise to total horror.

"What did you just say to them?" I asked.

"I told them to be careful about what they say in elevators because they never know who is listening," she said.

"And what did they say?"

"They said you look like an utter geek with that bowtie."

Nice. I felt good about myself.

My wife, who dresses me the way my mother dressed me when I was four … in ways I don’t agree with, but put up with because all of my taste is in my mouth … decided to equip me with a high end selection of bowties (favoring Hermes no less) for what the French call a papillion.

Wearing one piece of high fashion as opposed to Gap or Brooks Brother makes me feel special, but what really makes bow tie wearing special is that they are the world’s best "a$%hole" detectors. They are like Geiger counters in this regard. If someone gives you grief about bowties, then they are, ergo, a complete butt head.

I have not worn a bowtie lately. Arriving at a new job with a bowtie is a very risky manuever and sets the stage for a long, long time. Last night I met with the buddy who’s Danish (now-ex) girlfriend came to my elevator defense. He was shocked, stunned and angered to see without my trademark and accused me of bad brand management.

Tell you the truth, bowties lost a lot of their appeal the day I saw that utter loser Tucker Carlson get taken down by the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.  The most visible bow tie wearer in the world got slapped down and I wanted no part of it.

 

Anyway, this post was inspired by the following justification for bow tie wearing: 

 

Mid-Iowa Newspapers – NEWS – 01/25/2006 – Outrage and passion

"For one woman, the thought of Gartner first conjures up the image of his signature bowtie, a feature that is only accentuated on the jacket of his new book, colored all in red against an otherwise black and white headshot.

"Gartner began wearing a bowtie when he started raising his sons almost 25 years ago.

""They will pee all over your tie if you have a regular tie on while you are changing their diaper,""as Gartner tells it. ""It occurred to me that it was a risky business, so I started wearing (bowties) and never got out of the habit.""

My favorite things: The Grundig Yacht Boy

I bought this radio — the Grundig YB400PE — in 1995  at the Circuit City in Union Square, NYC when I was starting Forbes.com and needed some tunes in the evening while studying Latin in my room at the Yale Club (don’t ask …).

I fell in love with the design. It was so Germanic, so functional that I had to have it despite its steep price — $150 — for a radio. Ah, but what a radio.  Ten years later and I’m still listening it, typing away while it plays the wonderful public radio station WUNC (I think the best public radio station I’ve heard, and Boston has two giants, WGBH and WBUR). This is the radio I’d take on safari, the one I’d listen to during my solo circumnavigation or while holed up in the bar of the Intercontinental during the next military coup.

AM, FM and Shortwave, it came with a retractable 30-foot shortwave antenna. Now I have no great interest in shortwave, and the radio won’t find any stations without the antenna draped over the room and over the window sill, but the tuning on the unit is entirely digital — you punch in the frequency on a dial pad like a phone, press "Freq" and bang, there you are. It saves 40 pre-sets, has a great alarm clock, and is small enough to tuck into a garment bag. This is truly a classic piece of global traveller equipment.

The model has been discontinued and replaced with a newer one, and Grundig, a 50-year old company, was acquired a few years ago by Eton. For an interesting history of Grundig, click here. 

 

 

The sound quality is excellent, and I’ve used it for years as a shop radio while I work on my boats or bikes. The funny thing that I realize is that despite the presence of a sleek black Nano iPod in my rucksack, it’s the Yacht Boy that gets used the most.