Friday, February 18, 2011

On Letter Writing and Greeting Card Efficiency

For anyone who knows me and for anyone who doesn't, I have a strong abhorrence for greeting cards. I can’t stand “pre-populated messages” and the simple “insert signature here” that stamps that you approve this message.

I own stationary and a pen is always by my side. There is a casual elegance and grace in writing letters. I firmly believe this stems from the deliberate amount of time it takes to craft a letter and a degree of deference to the art of letter writing. When in receipt of mail there is nothing better than a letter that is handwritten on stationary, devoid of any “pre-populated message.” Letter writing provides this improbable dichotomy of communication that is simultaneously “colloquial and graceful,” “informative and superfluous,” “spontaneous and planned,” and at all times unwittingly familiar.

What I am providing below is an “all-purpose occasion card1” which can be distributed for all types of occasions. By maintaining a constant supply of these cards which can be quickly distributed you will have more time for writing a proper letter.



Circle all choices that apply. Alternatively cross out all choices that do not apply.
Affix stamp
Fill out address of recipient


1by all accounts2this is nine thousand percent more efficient
2Largely scientific3

Monday, February 14, 2011

My experiences with cobblers and cobblers

In all of my years I have never met a cobbler I did not like. For a man of my age I do believe I have more than the average1 amount of cobbling demands but that is beside the point. This past weekend I needed the sole on a pair of oxfords repaired so I ambled down avenue A to find a cobbler that had Sunday hours2. I stopped in at AK Shoe Repair on East 9th where I was happily welcomed. In all of my years every cobbler I have met has fit this description:

• Under 5 foot 6 inches
• Most likely under 5 foot 2 inches with some sort of hunch from decades of cobbling
• Over 75 years old
• Owns store that has not changed in 50 years
• Works in a dimly lit space with shoe laces and cedar shoe tress covering every last inch of the wall
• Speaks a mumbled version of English where all the consonants seem to blend together
• Oh so nice and definitely someone's grandpa
• Charges $10 dollars for any and all type of work plus $2 for shoe shine
• Extremely proud of work and can’t wait to tell you.

Continually every cobbler I have met has always been so excited to show me the work he has done, whether it is replacing a heel seamlessly, fixing the sole of the shoe, or replacing a heel seamlessly. I’m always waved in to duck down and see the meticulous detail that has been a result of decades of experience and effort. All for which I am then charged ten dollars plus an additional two for the shine.

This is a recipe for blueberry cobbler3 from Thomas Keller’s book Ad-Hoc at Home.

1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp each: baking powder, baking soda
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
8 cups blueberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Cinnamon sugar:
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

For topping, in medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and baking soda.
In large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Using hand mixer, mix on low speed, then beat on medium until mixture is light and creamy, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk in 2 batches. Scrape down sides; mix again to ensure all ingredients are combined.

For filling, in medium bowl, toss blueberries with sugar, flour and zest. Spread in 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Spoon mounds of batter over berries, leaving space between mounds. (Makes about 12 mounds.)

For cinnamon sugar, stir together sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over batter. Bake in preheated 350F oven 40 minutes or until juices are bubbling and topping is golden and cooked through.

Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving. (Refrigerate leftovers up to 2 days.)
Makes 6 servings.


1 plus two standard deviations
2 cobbler day of rest
3 delicious

Monday, February 07, 2011

On New Year’s Resolutions, Thinking about blogging, and the Weather in Kent

By all accounts we are 10.4% into 20111, a point where over half of New Year’s resolutions have already been broken. I had three resolutions this year and by my account I have been successful.

Resolution #1: Curse less and more at the same time

I habitually curse. I easily surpass my cursing quota every quarter. The majority of my cursing is usually ironic and for the sake of comedy. Work presents a problem as it is the place I am compelled to curse the most, but at the same time a well timed fuck this noise doesn’t always play well in the office. Problem.

Sometime between the hours of 2am and 3am eastern standard time during the penultimate week of 2010 I found my answer:


As you of course know shazbot is the curse word used by Mork2.

By utilizing shazbot my cursing has taken a logarithmic path. It has tapered to an average of 7 shazbots per hour per work day. I think I can mark this as success thus far. I am about a log base 1,9.

Resolution #2: Utilize schematics more

It makes much more sense than utilizing napkins, I have an abundance of t-squares, and I’ll get more done3. I could store the schematics in the warehouse.

Resolution #3: Find ways to use the phrase “a day late and a dollar short”

No more than 11 days ago I was leaving work when my colleague8 was carrying his umbrella the day after it rained and he had been drenched. I pounced on the opportunity but I did not verify if he was in fact a dollar short.


1 at that point I instinctually typed fiscal year 2011 but corrected myself.

2 Of Mork and Mindy fame

3 Although I consider myself to be hyper-productive, my overall production output is hindered by the fact that I am interested in everything all the time and feel the need to constantly begin new projects. In addition to this I am fascinated by design and the environment in which you create in. Often times when I begin conceptualizing4 an endeavor I spend an inordinate amount of time conceptualizing the environment I want to create in. What would be the best type of typewriter, where do I get one of those six foot candles, how many warm grey Copic markers is too many, perhaps this would be better done at the park in front of that fountain on that one bench that I like but not the other ones. What this adds up too is by the time I have decided that I am ready I may have already moved onto the next project7 leaving the original ideas to live only on the pages of an archived moleskine notebook that no doubt won’t be discovered because I never followed through on that time capsule project.

4 The other day I was sitting around drinking a blood and sand5 cocktail and was thinking about blogging. I did not blog. I simply thought about the idea of thinking about blogging. I really like blogging but I like thinking about it more. Often I conceptualize the post in my head or a sketch and feel like “I got it” and then there is not point to put it down. I know editing defeats some of the nature of blogging as I am internally editing myself but I think as the co-writer of this blog I have a duty to my reader(s) to provide all the content that is fit to blog and nothing more. My blog post to ideas about blog posts is 1 : 3, my blog posts to times I think about thinking about blog post is 1: 7.

5 Blood and Sand is a classic scotch based cocktail. It’s great because it’s suitable for breakfast6, a pre dinner drink, or after 2am. Very versatile. This recipe is more on the bitter side than the classic recipe by substituting punt et mes for ross vermouth and using less luxardo maraschino liquor or cherry brandy. I also am using a peated scotch that gives it a smokey flavor and aroma that plays well with the orange juice and cherry.

1 oz Laphroaig
Freshly squeeze juice of one large Valencia orange (approximately 1 oz)
.75 oz of Punt et Mes
.75 oz of Cherry brandy or luxardo maraschino liquor
Dash of orange bitters

Stir with ice in a glass cocktail shaker and strain once or twice through a chinoise or a tea strainer commensurate on your proclivity for orange juice pulp. Pour into a chilled coupe glass or serve with one large ice cube in a rocks glass.

6 It has orange juice!

7 I have this business idea for a work related fantasy camp. Unlike those rock and roll fantasy camps the job choices would be everyday jobs that we want to do for a week but passed on in our lives for financial and other reasons. One week as a mailman, cop, crooked cop, bakery owner, proprietor of a bed and breakfast, high school math teacher who teaches kids that math is fun. So like that. To be detailed in a post to be named later

8This particular work colleague grew up in Kent and now resides in London. It’s predictable but we enjoy discussing the weather. The BBC has tremendously good weather forecast. All of their meteorologist discuss the intricacies of barometric pressure with a sense of ease knowing the connoisseurship of the audience. I brought that up with my co-worker who informed me everyone in England loves talking about the weather and is so well versed in it partially because of weather forecasting being part of the National Curriculum. He described that during your studies a significant amount of time is devoted to forecasting the weather as this fun and informative assignment. Combined with the detail being provided it seems to stick. The BBC news provides me less relevant weather advice but I’m always well prepared for the rain.