Monthly Archives: December 2017

Gratitude 2017

By Noah Graff

Soon I’ll be 38 years old. I often question whether I have used my time wisely so far to reach a daily happy existence and positively impact the world. At this time of year I dwell on the past 12 months and I regret all the times I was lazy. I wish I had not been scared to try new things. I wish I had not burned so much time and energy obsessing over trivial things.

But before I get down on myself too much and before I set my goals for next year I feel it is important for me to list a few of the things I feel grateful for in 2017. The year has had some highlights and I believe to live a mentally healthy life it’s important to take time for gratitude and perspective. I guess sharing this is more for my own personal benefit rather than for you readers, but perhaps you will find a few things interesting and it will inspire some of your own reflections on 2017.

Gratitude list for 2017

I got engaged to my girlfriend Stephanie.
I ate Stephanie’s Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies.
I ate my mom’s cake.
I worked on my diet (a recent endevour).
I developed a morning ritual.
I developed my idea muscle.
I started getting more sleep.
I learned the concept of 54321.
I worked on investments and even bought a few tulips…er Bitcoin.
I traveled to interesting places for business and pleasure.
I visited San Sebastián, Spain, with Stephanie.
I met many new people—some better than others.
I began some new relationships—both personal and professional.
I worked on my negotiation skills.
I gave to charity (but not enough).
I volunteered (but not enough).
I helped Graff-Pinkert go from two so so years to an excellent one.
I danced.
I took lovely rigorous jogs.
I got to be artistic (but not often enough).
I cared about people.
I learned about INDEXs, and Nakamuras and Schüttes.
I made some money.
I treasure hunted.
I listened to fascinating books and podcasts on my commutes to work that hopefully changed my life.
I watched fun movies and TV shows like Vikings and The Last Jedi.
I planned a little for the future (but not enough).
I watched the Cubs beat the Nationals in one of the craziest baseball games ever.
I spent time with my family and got to work alongside my dad.
I gained some perspective.
I felt gratitude and appreciated life when I remembered to.

Question: What are you grateful for in 2017?

Nestle Toll House Cookies

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Fruitsposé

By Lloyd Graff

Every day another prominent guy is forced to admit how his desire got the best of him. Today I must reveal my secret passion. I have had a lifelong affair with fruit.

I was reminded of this a couple days ago when I was in the produce department of Bizio’s, my local fruit seller of choice. He had THE BLUEBERRIES. I am very fussy about all my berries, and I usually shun blueberries in December in Chicago because they shlep them in from Argentina or Mexico and by the time I buy them they are flat and tasteless. But occasionally in December and January Driscoll Blueberries arrive and they are plump and taste like the best of Southwest Michigan berries in July. Really, they are even better, because they come so unexpectedly, and from Mexico no less.

When I find them I’m like a bear with a honeycomb. I want them all. So I buy almost every little carton on the shelf, price be damned, because these are my treasures of winter.

I love almost every berry at its peak. Frankly, I love almost every fruit in season.

This past summer I went absolutely bonkers over watermelon — Black Diamond seedless, to be specific. For almost eight weeks I was virtually delirious for those 15 pound bundles of dark pink joy. I sliced the melons into big sensuous chunks and pigged out for breakfast, lunch, and after dinner. Probably gained five pounds over two months on my Black Diamonds, but worth it.

Then there is my apple period. August, September, October, I infest the local farmers markets checking out the reddish treasure. Honeycrisps are my faves, but I’ll accept anything except the most vile apple on the planet, “Delicious.” Has there ever been a more inappropriate adjective for a fruit? If a farmers market seller even grows Red Delicious I will avoid them like Measles. Why even have a tree if it gives fruit as utterly cardboardy as that sickly variety that should only be exported to China for Pandas.

If there is an antidote for awful apples it is perfect pears. Bartlett’s are rather prosaic for me, but they are succulent and tasty, sliced any way you want. Wonderful with a soft cheese. Anjou are a little Franco, but just as marvelous, and a Bosc if peeled will duel the best of them. But for me the princess of pears is the Comice. The skin is a little rough like the Bosc, but if you hit the ripeness on the button, that pear has no peer. They sell for a premium, but the flavor of a Comice puts me in blissful state. Can you ask for more from any fruit?

I am a nut for fruit from trees. Oranges are back in season now and I am going bananas for Mandarins with the stems left on them and the spectacular Cara Cara orange, which is a cross between a grapefruit and a blood orange. Sweet and a little sour at the same time with a marvelous pink color.

I cannot leave out the often overlooked grapefruit. Texas Ruby Reds are back in season and I am an avid buyer. They take a little time to section, but nothing good comes without effort.

I’ll finish my fruity ode with my love of strawberries. I am suffering at the moment because I haven’t had any decent strawberries in months. Unlike the blessed blueberries that come out of nowhere for a week or two in December, winter strawberries are invariably crappy.

Our family is taking our annual pilgrimage to San Diego over President’s weekend this year. February is right at the beginning of strawberry season in southern California. I pray that the berries won’t be late because we devour a flat each day. We buy them at a local farm stand, and they are “to die for.”

My regrets to peaches which I adore over their oh so short season, but I had to leave out something.

And Pomegranates. Sorry, you are just too seedy.

Tell me about your fruit fetish. I am still exploring.

Questions:

What are your favorite fruits? Why?
What fruits do you hate?

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Good Morning!

By Noah Graff

For the last 10 years my general sleep pattern usually consisted of going to bed sometime between 12:00 A.M. and 1:00 A.M (sometimes later) and waking sometime between 7:45 and 8:00 A.M. When I awoke usually the first thing I’d do was grab my cellphone to check emails and text messages in bed. I get a lot of emails from international customers and I was interested to see what opportunities were percolating worldwide. Then I would roll out of bed and do my bathroom stuff (often skipping the shower to save time). I’d throw on some clothes, skip breakfast (I would usually eat some oatmeal when I got to the office) and head to work at about 8:20 A.M.

In the last two months I’ve changed my morning and evening patterns during the work week because I’m trying to get more productivity out of each day and hopefully lead a more fulfilling life. I make myself turn the lights out sometime between 11:00 and 11:30 P.M. I keep my cellphone in the bathroom with the door open, as opposed to keeping it on my nightstand. That way I can hear it if someone is calling with an emergency late at night, but I won’t be tempted to check it if a foreign customer sends me a text message at 3:00 A.M.

Noah’s cellphone in bathroom

In my new morning ritual I wake up at 7:00 A.M. sharp everyday. The snooze alarm and checking email in bed is prevented by the phone being in the bathroom. I jump out of bed immediately to turn off the alarm on my phone and amble into the shower which revives me. I also find that a shower often triggers my brain activity. I start coming up with new ideas and plotting what I need to accomplish the coming day.

After showering I eat some eggs while the phone still remains in the bathroom off limits. I spend five to ten minutes listing in a notebook all of the tasks I want to accomplish that day. Then I spend approximately 15 minutes writing down 10 new ideas. The ideas can range from new inventions to new types of businesses. Perhaps I’ll make a list of ways I can get out of my comfort zone or 10 things I feel gratitude for. Not until after I’m done writing down my ideas do I get to check emails or texts. If I don’t get to lay out my day’s plan and write down my 10 ideas the day feels out of balance.

My new goal is to go to bed even earlier so I can wake up earlier and get more sleep. Scientific studies show that peak brain performance occurs in the first few hours of the day. Scientists also say that if a person receives eight hours of sleep he has the potential to be three times as creative as he would with less sleep. Also, when I read about famous high achievers it seems like most of them average eight to ten hours of sleep. My problem is that time feels so scarce. I feel like I already don’t have the time to do all the things I want to do after work such as working out, cooking dinner, spending time with my girlfriend or working on creative projects. How will I have enough time with one less hour in my night. My hope is that when I start getting more sleep and waking up earlier my new found efficiency will give me a net gain for my day’s productivity.

Question 1: What is your morning ritual?

Question 2: Are you an early riser or night owl?

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Book It

By Lloyd Graff

It’s holiday gift giving time for those of us fortunate enough to be able to do it.

Let me make a suggestion. If you have children or grandchildren young enough to be read to, find a book that you would love to read to them, buy it and then read it to them when they are preparing to go to bed. And read it with GUSTO.

My favorite books these days are by the fabulous American illustrator and writer Mo Willems. The beauty of his works is that they are both extravagantly illustrated in vivid colors and enormously entertaining for both kids and the pseudo adults who read them. They lend themselves to exaggerated dramatic rendering. My older grandchildren know them by heart, but they love to hear me stumble through them as they wait for the punch lines, which I do with over the top zest while they launch into riotous laughter.

That is the beauty of a great kids book. It can be heard 50 times and it gets better with each telling, if the storyteller gets into it.

This is why a Mo Willems book beats a video game by a mile as a gift. The video game is a one-way present, but a book like Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs and Nanette’s Baguette are totally interactive fun.

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I find it fascinating how “analytics” are changing the sports I have always loved, baseball and basketball.

If you have watched a basketball game lately you will have seen how it has evolved into a game of 3-point attempts and drives to the hoop. The stats tell us that midrange jump shoots are a loser if they comprise more than 50% of the shots put up in game.

If you watch the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets you see the trend being played out successfully. Both teams have tremendous 3-point shooters to execute the plan and coaches who gladly embrace the approach.

Boston with Kyrie Irving now has the point guard who can make the strategy work, though his outside shot is not as beautiful as Steph Curry’s or James Harden’s. The Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron don’t have the perfect personnel to execute this drive and kick out strategy, but they may by the end of the season.

The baseball version of the drive and kick for the 3-pointer is the walk and homer approach. This year you saw more players take walks and change their swings to hit home runs because the analytics told teams it was the way to win.

It is possible the ball was juiced a little bit, but the primary reason that there were so many homers this past season was that the players changed their swings to elevate the ball when they hit it. They also took a lot of pitches trying to tire out the pitchers and look for the right pitch to jack.

Of course, the defense reacted by hunting for ground ball throwing pitchers and 100-mile per hour relievers. The baseball cliché is that it is a “game of adjustments,” and in this case that is certainly accurate.

Personally, I miss the turnaround jump shot at the free throw line in basketball and small ball with bunts and stolen bases in baseball. But the beauty of sports is that they constantly evolve. With the Japanese Babe Ruth, Shohei Otani, coming to Major League Baseball in 2018, who can pitch and play outfield to take advantage of his power hitting, we will be seeing a new kind of player. I can’t wait. Hopefully he’ll be with the Cubs.

Question: What is your favorite children’s book?

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Machine Sabatoge

By Noah Graff

I spent last weekend in Prague, Czech Republic—a wonderful place. One of the most famous tourist attractions in the city is the Prague Astrological Clock or Prague Orloj built in the 15th Century. The clock was a remarkable feat of engineering in its day for its multiple features, including a display of the position of the sun and the moon, and a monthly calendar.

As I rode through Prague’s Old Town Square on my excellent bike tour my guide enlightened me about the clock’s dark history.

Some historians dispute this story, but who knows what information you can trust these days. So lets embrace the juicy story of this clock, as told by my Czech tour guide.

Clock Master Hanuš built the clock, commissioned by the councillors of Prague. Master Hanuš was an engineering visionary for his era. People of the time may have seen him as a Steve Jobs type figure.

The fantastic clock helped Prague grow into a hot tourist attraction—much like it is today, minus the club scene and centuries-old Jewish cemetery. Unfortunately, the mayor of Prague became paranoid that the clock master would be recruited to build another fantastic clock in a different city. A competing clock in a another city could hurt Prague’s tourism business, so the mayor took drastic action.

Prague Astrological Clock or Prague Orloj, Prague, Czech Republic

To prevent the clock master from building any new clock towers the mayor hired an anonymous henchman who gouged the clock master’s eyes out and cut out his tongue. The clock master then holed himself up in an apartment for many years, helpless and dejected, until one day someone divulged to him that the mayor had been behind the abduction.

The clock master vowed revenge. Killing the mayor would have been difficult for a blind man with no tongue, but he had a better idea anyways—an idea that would have a more dramatic and lasting impact.

Clock Master Hanuš committed suicide. He jumped off the top of the tower into the heart of clock’s mechanical innards jamming its mechanisms and disabling it. It would take a century before a new clock master finally repaired it.

Question 1: Have you ever wanted to destroy a machine?

Question 2: Do you prefer wearing a watch?

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