Monday, May 19, 2014

Look to the News for Inspiration

Whenever I lack inspiration for a blog post all I need do is read the newspaper or listen to the news on TV or radio. Some cases in point:

Watching CBS Sunday Morning on Sunday I couldn’t help but be thrilled by the show’s choice of Santa Fe as the backdrop for its annual special edition on design. Gilda and I will shortly be visiting the colorful capital of New Mexico, though not as a replacement for our previously planned and now scrapped cruise of the Black Sea with stops in Odessa, Yalta, Sevastopol and Sochi. 

CBS Sunday Morning also ran a feature on tennis great Venus Williams and her apparel company. She named it “Eleven,” a number dear to Gilda’s and my heart (among other reasons, we were born 11 days apart 65 years ago and our house number is 11). I liked Williams’ reasoning behind her name choice: “Eleven stands for being better than a 10.”

A third tie-in appeared, courtesy of a piece on treadmill desks (for the uninformed, these are raised desks you work at while walking on a treadmill underneath at roughly two miles per hour). 

Joanna Coles, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan, shown in the segment walking on her treadmill desk, said, “I’m more contemplative on the treadmill desk. I find the action of walking helps me think better.”

Steelcase manager of health and wellness Carlene Stevens explained, “As we exercise we send endorphins to our brain which then kind of increases our innovation, creativity and it could increase productivity, as well.”

Which might explain why some of my best ideas came to me as I walked up and down Park Avenue on my way to and from Grand Central Terminal and work.

Road Trip: The Travel section of the Sunday New York Times carried an article entitled “To Campuses Without a Campus.” I was hooked by the first sentence: “The last thing a dad gets to really teach his daughter is how to drive a car.” (

It reminded me of a trip Ellie and I took to Oberlin College in Ohio when she was 16 and recently licensed to drive. On our way home along Interstate 80, I felt sufficiently comfortable to let her drive across half of Pennsylvania and all of New Jersey while I dozed in the shotgun seat. Before nodding off I told her, just go straight, no turns. 

I awoke as we passed the toll booth for the George Washington Bridge. I panicked as I realized Ellie had never crossed a bridge and as soon as she entered Manhattan she would be an illegal, underage driver on a highway. The alternatives were frightening—proceed straight onto the heavily trafficked Cross Bronx Expressway or take the exit ramp from the bridge onto the Henry Hudson Parkway North, with some of the most belly-churning curves in the region. 

We chose the latter with Ellie trying to calm me down. Only, we didn’t go north, we wound up going south, while all I could do was loudly tell her to get off at the first exit. Ellie successfully maneuvered us off the highway. 

Ellie chose not to apply to Oberlin.

Recycling: The Sunday Business section depicted how cities and companies are trying to minimize food waste by encouraging composting ( 

Gilda and I have been doing our fair share. For the last 18 months we’ve been placing uncooked organic waste in a countertop compost bin. When full, we dump the contents into an outdoor plastic garbage can aerated by holes I drilled into the sides and cover. The food is mixed with dry leaves I process in the fall in a leaf shredder I purchased for $25 off of Craig’s List.  

When the garbage can is full we transfer the contents to an outdoor compost heap. Last weekend we went to Croton Point Park for Earth Day celebration and picked up a plastic compost bin. 

Gilda the Gardener is thrilled. She considers her home made compost to be black gold.

In case you’re wondering, the organic compost does not smell.

Nail-Biting Time: Finally, the Workologist column of The Times dealt with a thorny problem of office etiquette, namely, what to do when co-workers cut their fingernails in public.

True confession time—until I was 28 I bit my nails. I couldn’t stop. Like smoking, I was addicted. But the day I started working in Manhattan 37 years ago I stopped. Cold turkey. 

That day I also began carrying a nail clipper wherever I went. It turned out to be among the most useful tools I could ever imagine. I prefer a nail clipper with a small file, the kind the Transportation Security Administration at first deemed a weapon and wouldn’t permit you to carry onto a plane in the months after September 11. I’ve used a nail clipper to cut those pesky strings that tie shoes together in stores. To slice through package wrappings. To cut a nail that I would otherwise bite off.  

But I try to never cut my nails in public.