Corona Diaries Day 7 — My Dark Moments, My Better Moments

This is part of a series of posts chronicling the Coronavirus / Covid19 outbreak in New York City as seen by me, a father husband and lawyer living in Brooklyn. See them all on the main Corona Diaries page.

March 20, 2020

No school today, the teachers were taking a minute to regroup, so we were largely on our own.

Honestly, it was easier. I’ve noticed  that  the most stressful part is getting the kids to focus / deal with the tech issues of getting them through the day. Without those, it was actually easiert.

Got in a very short run (1 mile). It still feels like there are too many people out there. One of the joys of NYC is that  it is an uncontrollable mess, but in times like these it becomes clear that it is really fundamentally is nothing more then an uncontrollable mess.

In my dark moments  I think there’s no way out but through — we are going to loose lots and lots of people and what I need to do is keep my kids safe. Nothing more is possiible.

In my better moments  I think we’re learning many lessons from other places (Italy, Spain) and we’ll actually come out better.

I don’t know which is correct. I do know we need to keep it small, whether it is for our healthy or all of society, we need to continue like this, however hard it is, to remain physically distant while close socially.

Not an easy task.

Corona Diaries Day 6 — 2 Kids, 2 Careers

This is part of a series of posts chronicling the Coronavirus / Covid19 outbreak in New York City as seen by me, a father husband and lawyer living in Brooklyn. See them all on the main Corona Diaries page.

March 19, 2020

Tough one to get through today. Spent basically all day alone with the kids, the mornings aren’t  bad, it’s basically managing logistics, but the afternoons are tough. Just too much free time in a (suddenly very small) apartment. Its easy to loose your temper on your kids in this environment and I did today. Not proud of it, but here we are.

Meditation helps. And I’ve found time for that the last two days. Need to do it much much more. Tune out the crazy, get more in touch with what I can control.

It’s a crazy moment in world history to live through, massive events are happening, everyday, and yet it is also all so completely mundane for people like me. Long, long hours stuck inside with your kids while the world falls apart outside.

I may be completely wrong, but I think we’ll on the other side of this in about 18 months  to two years. That’s a long time, for sure, but not the end of the world.

The next bit will be the hardest — we will see awful things — but I feel pretty confident that not only will my family survive, we will thrive. We’re reasonably anti-fragile, but need to become more so. More debt free, better able to relocate quickly, better prepared.

 

Corona Diaries Day 5 — What We Can, and Cannot, Control

This is part of a series of posts chronicling the Coronavirus / Covid19 outbreak in New York City as seen by me, a father husband and lawyer living in Brooklyn. See them all on the main Corona Diaries page.

March 18, 2020

Yes, home schooling is stressful and yes, it is hard to focus and get work done when your kids are constantly demanding snacks and tech support, but still and all, today was a good day.

The kids have been basically great. Even though I barely leave the house, I am moving my body more than I have in a long long time. I meditated for the first time in more than a week and I’m keeping to my whole food plant based diet.

Yes, Western Society collapsing, but on the items I can control, I am doing great.

Here’s what I commit to doing, everyday:

  1. Run
  2. Body Weigh Work / flexibility
  3. Journal
  4. Meditate
  5. Read

    Right now, I need to focus on what I can control — my concentration, my fitness, my health. Do what you can today, and leave the things you cannot control where they are.

Corona Diaries Day 4 — Home with the Kids

This is part of a series of posts chronicling the Coronavirus / Covid19 outbreak in New York City as seen by me, a father husband and lawyer living in Brooklyn. See them all on the main Corona Diaries page.

March 17, 2020

St. Pats day, but it really doesn’t feel like it.

My first day home all day with the kids. Challenging, but also often joyful. I feel lucky that I have good, kind, kids. Yes they sometimes drive me crazy, but all in all, they’re a joy, and are getting along remarkable well.

I’ll admit that if I didn’t have the kids, this would be borderline relaxing. But then what would it all be for?

I’m trying to stay positive, trying to focus on what I can get done. Back into the meditation groove, somehow. Back into a running groove — that’s underway. Back into strength and flexibility — that’s just starting.

I’m hoping I come back from being away a better, fitter, person. That’s one thing in all this I can control.

Corona Diaries Day 1 – New York on a Early Spring Day

This is part of a series of posts chronicling the Coronavirus outbreak in New York City as seen by me, a father husband and lawyer living in Brooklyn. See them all on the main Corona Diaries page.

March 14, 2020

Going to try to do a daily recap of what I am seeing in Brooklyn as the Coronavirus / Covid19 crisis deepens. Things have been building for awhile, but now they’re really happening and today was shocking.

Schools are starting to close. My kids school announced  they were closing indefinitely and starting distance learning on Monday. But today, the stores resturants and bars were jamed  and Prospect Park was blanket to blanket. We’re clearly not yet in the place where we’re taking this seriously.

I went to grocery store  where the shelves were packed full except for cleaning products. Farmers market also just packed with people.

In the afternoon, L and I went for a walk with the Greenfields and saw no less than half a dozen people I knew. Then, late in the day, I took Levi for ice cream. A huge  line, but only one person working. Clearly, others had called in sick.

I got the creeps standing in this giant line for ice cream in a pandemic and we left. Levi cried all the way home telling me I’d broken a promise but there was no way we were just going to stand there with all those  people.

Some Thoughts on Vaera and the First Four Plagues

This is a text of a d’var Torah I gave at Altshul on January 25, 2020 

 

 

First, I want to say that I am so glad my family joined altshul a year and a half ago. The generosity and kindness of this community is amazing. I feel lucky to be a part of it and to get to say a couple of words today.

This week, we begin the plagues. Reading them this year, I was struck by their structure, their slow reveal, and I want to take some time to look at that aspect of them, especially as it plays out in the first four plagues.

We begin with God telling Moses to tell Aaron to act. He raises his staff and first turns the rivers to blood, then brings forth frogs. Aaron does this, but remarkably, Pharaoh’s magicians do the same.  It is a sort of tit for tat, between God’s actor, Aaron, and Pharaoh’s, the magicians, with neither getting the upper hand.

Then in the third plague, Aaron brings forth from the dust, lice. Here, the magicians cannot follow. Instead they proclaim that surely this is the work of God.

Only now, in the fourth plague, does God himself act – there’s no Moses, no Aaron, just God. He brings forth the wild animals, perhaps the most mysterious of the plagues. And for the first time, God declares that he will protect his people, that the horde, the wild animals, whatever they might be, will not descend on Goshen, where God’s people live.

Tradition tells us that the Jews suffered from none of the plagues. But why is God’s protection only articulated here in the fourth plague? And for that matter, why is it only here, well into the action, that God alone brings forth a plague?

Rashi tells us that Moses did not take part in the first three plagues because of his personal relationship with the river. But that doesn’t explain why we have to wait to the fourth plague for God to take center stage.

Perhaps to explain this it’s helpful  to think of the plagues as revelation of God’s power and omnipotence, not only to the Egyptians, but to the Jews as well.

We know the plagues can be broken into three sets of three, with the final plague standing alone in its horrible power. The first three show God’s existence, the second three, his providence over the earth, and the final three, his omnipotence. When Aaron is acting under God’s direction, he is also publicly confronting Pharaoh’s magicians. Does the God Moses speak of exist? Will he really save the Jews from bondage? Moshe says so, but when Aaron turns the Nile to blood, so do the magicians; when he raises the frogs, they do the same.

The tension builds.

But then Aaron raises the lice and the magicians are awed – they are in fact the first non-Jews in Exodus to admit God exists. Right after, God himself takes over and makes clear that he alone holds these powers over the earth. He directs the horde of wild animals towards the homes of the Egyptians and for the first time, states that he will protect his people in Goshen.

Here is God, finally taking direct control. And here is God, not Moses, and not Aaron, defining who his people are and assuring them that he will protect them.

Why does this take so long?

As a friend’s son asked, why doesn’t God just teleport the Jews out of Egypt?

Surely if the Jews were to suddenly disappear, the Egyptians would be awed. But perhaps the Egyptians alone are not the audience here. Perhaps we too are the audience, and we are the ones who need to be shown, and reminded not once, but twice every year, that God is greater than human tricks, and that God alone decides who is, and isn’t, among his people.

 

Goals, Identity, And Self Care — Some Thoughts On What I’m Trying To Do In 2020

I don’t remember exactly where I saw this, maybe it was in the Netflix bio thing on Bill Gates, or maybe it was in a random interview of him I watched on youtube, but somewhere out there on the internet I heard Bill Gates say that no matter what, even if he hates it, he finishes every book he starts because he knows if he let himself quit one book, he’d quit them all.

This guy finishes ever book he starts.

This really resonated with me, not only because I too finish every book I start, but also because when I look at myself, I see things that at first appear to be goals, but are really part of my identity.

So does this guy

For example, I see myself as a person who, no matter what, reads 52 books a year. Its nonnegotiable. I do it, every year, and completing it has certainly become part of my self-identity.

 

This got me thinking about other things that I’d like to become part of my self-identity. If I internalized things about my exercise and food choices and my spiritual/intellectual life not as goals, but as things that make me who I am, what more could I accomplish? For example, if instead of saying “I’d like to run 2000 miles a year” I said “I run 2000 miles a year” what would that do to my fitness, and my self-identity as a serious runner?

 

Digging in to this question is what I am going to experiment with this year. Its part of a plan I’ve been working on to build a revised and updated middle aged 3.0 version of Sean. I’m still toying with what form this will take, exactly, but I’ll use 2020 to experiment with broadening my personal identity to include things like “I eat a plant-based diet” and “I run 2000 miles a year” and “I study Hebrew”.

In the last couple of years, I’ve moved away from personal updates on this blog, but I might bring it back this year. I’m excited for 2020, for experimenting, for learning, and for building a better version of myself. Maybe I’ll document it here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Milo and the Calf Hits 250,000: Top 25 Post and Pages

So this trusty old website just went over 250,000 hits. That’s nothing in the world of big internet, but for little old me and my eccentric tastes, it’s a lot. As has become my tradition, I figured I’d take a moment here to say thanks to everyone who has stopped by, and to note the twenty five most popular pages on this here thing.

  1. The Boston Qualifier Questionnaire: The Stories of Those Who’ve Qualified for the Boston Marathon

No surprise that the most popular part of this website remains on top. I’ve interviewed over 250 runners as part of this project and there’s no end in sight.*

Boston Qualifier Questionnaire Art

  1. About

A page explaining what the fuck is going on here remains popular with the confused and curious.

 

  1. Data Analysis of the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire

When the BQ(Q) project hit 200 entries I did some basic statistical analysis. This is really where you should start if you’re interested in qualifying for Boston.

 

  1. David Goggins Inspired Bodyweight Work Outs

A quick page collecting some body weight based works outs shared by the inspiring David Goggins. Helpful if you’re looking to spice up you pull up bar work.

 

  1. Fitness Habits of Disgraced Generals

Year after year people google the fitness habits of generals Generals McCrystal and Patreus.  This appears to be where they end up.

 

  1. S-Town’s John B. Mclemore: A Reading List

I was struck by the life of the man at the center of this ground breaking podcast and did a little post on his reading habits. Apparently other people were interested in this too.

 

  1. 2016: My Year In Books

This was the year I tried to read books that reflected the demographics of the U.S. I recapped all that here.

 

  1. The Runnable Bridges of New York City

I made a map of every bridge in New York City that you can run over. This was probably the most time intensive project I’ve done for Milo. Glad other people are using it.

 

  1. Milo of Croton

A research page of information on our main man, Milo of Croton. I suspect this page has featured in number of hastily written undergrad papers.

Milo and the Wolves

This one, by Maurice Falconet’s is probably my favorite of the lot.

  1. The Egoist on the Fixed Gear

Don’t be an asshole on your bike.

 

  1. 2015: My Year in Books

These year in books pages where I collect my short reviews of the books I’ve read are surprisingly popular.

 

  1. Divine Madness

A page collecting various resources on the so-called “running cult” Divine Madness. Of everything I have published, this page gets the most emails and responses from previous members and, astonishingly, people interested in joining.

 

  1. Running Heroes – The Six Women of the 1972 New York City Marathon

A short piece celebrating the women who disrupted the 72 NYCM and changed running forever.

 

  1. Weight and the Marathoner

A short piece discussing the controversial, but important topic, of the relationship between body weight and long distance running.

 

  1. 2014: My Year in books

Another year, another 52 books.

 

  1. Classical Sources for the Milo Stories

A page collecting the various myths and references to Milo of Croton in ancient sources

 

  1. Some Thoughts On the Early Days of Strength Training

Just what the title say, a brief recap of the very early history of modern strength training.

 

  1. The Hero Brought Low: Representatives of Milo in Art

Some thoughts on what our portrayals of Milo in art say about us.

 

  1. Phil Coppess – Hero of Working Stuff Runners 

An appreciation of the always inspiring Coppess who was a world class talent who also held down a factory job and raised two daughters on his own.

Phil Coppess

Coppess on his way to a 2:10 win

  1. Alex Honnold, Free Soloing and the Viewers Guilt

A page of my thoughts on what it means to be an Alex Honnold fan. This was written years before Free Solo came out, but touches on many of the same issues.

 

  1. How I read 52 Books a Year.

A how-to illustrated with pictures from the Wire, the greatest television show of all time.

 

  1. Reflection on Martin Ginsburg

A short appreciation page for my law school professor, the husband of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

 

  1. The Barkley Marathons

A page with some thoughts and ideas on the Barkley Marathons, the worlds most insane foot race.

 

  1. Some Personal Reflections on Revs and New York in the 90s.

An appreciation of the great New York City Street Artists Cost and Revs.

 

  1. Steve Bannon: A Reading List

A page discussing the alleged influences on former Trump consigliere, Steve Bannon. Written back when Bannon was still an important figure (ah, 2017, we were so young)

 

Steve Bannon

Remember when this guy was important?

*A lot of individual BQ(Q) responses also would have made the top 25, but those can all be seen in this list of the Most View Responses to the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire.

On the Value of a Private Life

The way I remember it, we were in a bar in the lower Haight, day drinking on Bloomsday. I was ribbing Chris about the time he spent reading literature.  I was young and at the height of my sanctimonious leftist phase. I think my argument probably went something like, “its bourgeois to spend time reading literature when you could be reading revolutionary theory”… or something like that.

Chris was a bit older than me, much smarter, and much, much more well-read. Being the good-natured friend he was, he didn’t just tell me to just fuck off. Instead he said something along the lines of, “there is value in having a private life, a life of ideas and art that exists outside the market and outside politics. There’s a value to reading something beautiful just because it’s beautiful”.

Now to you, that may seem obvious. But to me it was a revelation. And the older I get, and the more demands are put on my time, the more important it is to me to protect that space, to continue to have that private life.

For many people I know, reading and reflection, art and music, have become luxuries they no longer have the time for. If we read, we read the twitter comments on the book; or we 2x the audio book on our run. If we listen, we listen in the background, while chasing after our kids, or doing the dishes.

I’d argue that this is a mistake. That we (and by “we” I mean “I”) need to take back a bit of time for the private life. For pursuits of depth that do not appear to have any utility. I think they do have utility. I think their depth and their unmonetizable nature make them uniquely important, and I think they make us better humans.

I realize this is easier said than done. I realize I am no longer a 22-year-old kid in a bar in San Francisco.

You’re not either.

I also realize that, as a reasonably successful dude, it is easier for me to say this that it is for others. And I realize that I cannot let the pursuit of a private life put an unreasonable burden on those around me. My wife cannot be asked to mind our children while I disappear to learn Greek. But finding the moments for reflect, however brief, and putting in the effort, however modest, to remove oneself from the daily scrum, if only briefly, if only to engage with a poem for fifteen minutes before bed, is, I think, worth it and worth protecting.

Michel Foucault

Quick Thought on Weight Loss

I’m trying to stay off twitter, but still want to write (and, apparently, share) my random thoughts. Here’s one:

Since my second kid was born, I’ve put on a little weight. Not a ton, but some. At the height of my running prowess, such as it was, I was about 170 pounds. These days I’m floating around in the low 190s. I’m six feet tall, so twenty five pounds is noticeable, but not life altering. My clothes still fit, but a bit snugger. My face is fuller,  but not pudgy. Horrifically, I can feel some jiggle when I run, but at least I can still run.

This is the current state of things:

Me. circa July 2018

I’m trying to reverse this. But with two kids and a demanding career, it isn’t easy. Most of the change has to happen not through my old stand by – high mileage, but instead through  my biggest challenge — controlling what I eat.

All of this is made even harder by the fact that I’m 43 years old now. Old enough that the metabolism is really starting to slow, and every poor food choice goes right to the gut.

So, I’m doing my best to follow the diet protocol described by Dr. Valter Longo. Its simple, its intuitive, and its showing some modest results.

It’s also leaving me hungry.

And that’s fine. I need to remember that if I’m eating a snack and two meals in a twelve hour window, that’s significantly less than I was eating before. And a body at rest likes to stay at rest. Once you get to 195 pounds, your body wants to stay at 195 pounds. Changes to that are going to be hard. They’re going to require some unpleasant hours when you’re not starving, but you could definitely eat.  I need to get through that, I need to find a new equilibrium. I need to be hungry.

As Dr. Peter Attia said somewhere, if our ancestors couldn’t perform complex tasks while hungry, we wouldn’t be here today. I’m trying to remember that while I write this memo on an empty stomach.