Herbietown - Voted Most Responsible in 8th Grade

Career Break

I left CNN near the end of last year, about 8 months ago. I’ve never had more than a week off between jobs and this break has been glorious. I didn’t sell all my possessions and move to Fiji. No, my dramatic escapes have been more targeted, due to my inability to get free from the ball and chain of my loving family.

Sometimes the type A person in me wonders whether I’ve made the best possible use of this precious time. On some level, this is dumb. The point was to step back, take a break, and recharge. Still, it sometimes helps to remind myself what I’ve been lucky enough to do:

  • Traveled to some amazing places ✈️
    • Surfed in Tamarindo, Costa Rica 🏄‍♂️ 🇨🇷
    • Communed with the Redwoods in Woodside, CA 🌳 🍄
    • Snorkeled in St. Lucia 🤿 🇱🇨
    • Snowboarded in Big Sky, MT and Park City, UT 🏂
    • Sunburned in Grayton Beach, FL 🥵
    • Played in an Ice Hockey tournament in Athens, GA 🥅
    • Watched 15 win a lacrosse tournament in Asheville, NC 🥍
    • Competed in 2 wacky canoe races at RDC on Squam Lake in NH 🛶
  • Proved that this Dad Bod still has it 🏒 🏃‍♂️
    • Won an AAHL elite A championship with The Crustaceans
    • Joined a 2nd ice hockey team, Soylent Green, in the O35 division
    • Ran the Peachtree 10k
  • Passed on valuable life skills to my progeny 🏀 🚗
    • Coached 10 in basketball
    • Taught (teaching) 15 how to drive
    • Schooled them all in Monopoly
  • Became an amateur naturalist 🌳 🍄
  • Raised over $20,000 for JDRF 💰
  • Gave a keynote address at a media conference in Phoenix, Arizona 🎤
  • Escaped into new realms of Sci-fi and Fantasy 📚
    • Read voraciously (24 books so far in 2023). Red Rising series probably my favorite so far, though the Stormlight Archives series is also tremendous. Started Infinite Jest this week.
    • Rewatched the entire Game of Thrones series, and a few others
  • Got a tattoo ☀️🌿
  • Rebuilt our family budget file: including an integrated financial model with income statement, balance sheet, statement of cash flows, and depreciation roll-forwards, going back 15 years, along with forward-looking analyses on retirement, college savings, taxes and more 🤓

There has also been plenty of soul-searching, grieving for my father (who died in May 2022), car-pooling, drinking excellent bourbon , taking the dogs on walks, purging unneeded possessions, reconnecting with old friends, and messing around with Chat GPT. Oh, and yes, many job interviews and networking conversations. I’ve turned down a few opportunities to consult, or move internationally; and some of the jobs I’ve wanted were pulled, are waiting for funding, or went to some other schmuck.

I am confident that the right thing will come along soon.

Putting Herbietown Back Out There

Herbietown is back! It’s been 8 years since this thing was active. I used to post here a few times a week from about 2007-2016, but when I joined CNN, I was forced to go dark. CNN has strict rules in place to avoid bias or even the appearance of bias, so even though I’m not a journalist, I was not allowed to have a blog.

I kept the url and just put all the existing content behind a password, with hopes that I would one day return to it. For some reason, I stopped writing new stuff. It didn’t seem the same without an audience, no matter how small that audience was. Now that I’ve left CNN, maybe it’s time to give it another try. The Internet has changed dramatically since 2016, and so have I. So let’s see what happens…

What to do with the massive body of work I already wrote? There are 785 posts… I’m going to go through it slowly, a few posts a day, and repost most of it. I’m a little worried there are some gotchas in there, or things I don’t really need to be public. But I will try to lean towards publishing most of it.

As I start this process, I’m blown away by a few things.

First, I was prolific. I wrote a lot. How did I make the time?

Second, I was political. I had strong feelings and I wasn’t afraid to share them. Religion, gay rights, marijuana, guns…and I was so SURE about everything. Not anymore.

Third, I was careless with my language. Some of this is times changing and becoming more aware of the impact of words. For example, in a post about playing Monopoly with my children, I mentioned that the best strategy was to build hotels quickly and then “rape” my opponents. That’s not a word choice I would make now. I cringed when I read it. Was that a more acceptable word choice back in 2014? Or was I just an oblivious part of the patriarchy? Probably a little of both. Anyway, though it was tempting, I didn’t edit these old posts…it’s for the historical record.

Finally, I’m struck by how honest I was. I put a lot out there. I loved to go right up to the line of what was appropriate to share, sometimes stepping over it. Some of the stuff probably could have hurt me professionally, too, by offending people in ways they never even told me. Who knows? I viewed myself as an unflinching writer above all else, and that raw expression was the point of it, what made it great. But now my 44-year-old self looks back and often cringes at how immature I was.

For years, I looked back at the “good old days” when I was a writer. I idealized those years, when I lived more mindfully and creatively by spending hours every day writing. Now I sometimes wonder if that was really true. Everything that went through my head was just material for an eventual blog post. I rarely just let experiences happen; instead I was always looking for the angle that would make an interesting post. Like one of those awful people that has to post their whole airbrushed life to Instagram. Nothing counted unless it appeared on my blog.

So now an older, wiser man will make another attempt to create. It won’t be TikTok videos or inspirational LinkedIn posts or a subscription Substack. Just an old fashioned WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it.

R.I.P. Dad

Dad and I at the White House

My father, Mickey Herbert, died on May 31, 2022. I’m still not quite ready to write about it, but I thought I’d post a few things.

Here’s the obituary that appeared in the Connecticut Post.

Here’s a story the Post ran a few days later. Some really nice quotes in there from people that knew him and loved him. Warning: paywall.

And here’s the eulogy I delivered:

My Dad knew that if you want to make a difference, you have to take big swings, and be willing to strike out.

One of the biggest swings he took was founding a company at age 32. He grew PHS from nothing, and sold it 22 years later. It was a grand slam home run. Over the years, I’ve met so many people who worked with my father who went out of their way to tell me how great a leader he was, and how they would follow him anywhere he went.

After that, he took another big swing and started a minor league baseball team.

There were some magical seasons for the Bluefish, especially 1999 when we won the Atlantic League championship. I had a front row seat to this chapter of his life and I will never forget it. My Dad LOVED the ballpark and all the interesting characters in it.

He proved that if you build it, they will come…even to Bridgeport, which was NOT obvious at the time. The Bluefish gave people a reason to take pride in the city, and he loved to see fans wearing
jerseys which read “Bridgeport” on the front.

The economics did not work out, but I don’t think he regretted taking that swing. Thousands of people now come to Bridgeport every year to watch hockey games or concerts. That all started with the Bluefish and is part of his legacy, and I couldn’t be prouder.

Many of the best memories of my Dad revolve around sports. He took us to countless Yankees and Mets games – which is kind of astonishing when you think about how much my father hated sitting in traffic. I’ll never forget as a very young boy walking out of Shea Stadium with him, down countless flights of stairs, after Daryl Strawberry hit a walk-off home run in extra innings…the stairs swayed precariously as the crowd chanted Dar….yll, Dar…yll. It was exhilarating and terrifying – I held his hand all the way down.

And later, in 1999, we traveled to Tampa and saw the UConn Huskies upset an undefeated Duke team, 77-74, to win the National Championship. We sat 2 rows in FRONT of the governor of Connecticut in that game. It was the best sporting event I ever attended.

And finally, Disney World. He took my children, Jack, Charlie and Sam, on at least 5 weeklong trips there, riding rollercoasters, watching fireworks shows, and working the system to avoid long lines (which he hated almost as much as he hated traffic). Since we live so far away in Atlanta, these trips were precious, and he developed a great relationship with my wife and 3 boys.

To close, something I appreciate most about my Dad is that he didn’t push me too hard in any particular direction. On some level, he understood the unique challenge of growing up in his shadow, even with so many incredible privileges that he had made possible. He didn’t push me to go to his alma mater or
to pick any particular line of work, he just supported me on my journey. He was even proud that I work for CNN, which I can assure you is not his favorite channel!

Through his words and his example, he taught me to make the most of my gifts, to be responsible, to provide, to give back, to finish what I start, to take big swings and not to be afraid of striking out.

Thank you, Dad, for giving me every opportunity I could ever wish for.

Scary Tornado Warning and data from my PWS

Tornado warning issued in Cobb County this morning. Here’s the last 24 hours of weather data from my Personal Weather Station.

Interesting to watch the pressure drop and the wind gusts and rain pick up.

No worries, everyone is safe!

Thanks to my neighbor Laurie for calling and waking us up this morning – we didn’t hear the sirens.


Here’s the actual polygon showing the tornado warning, just west of our location, at 6:02am.  From Weather Underground’s Wundermap.

2014.10.14_Tornado Wundermap Screenshot

And here’s what I had waiting for my kids as we emerged from the basement.  Now that is a good Dad.

krispy kreme

World Cup, You Suck

Note: This is the first in a multi-part series intended to serve as my job application for the GM position of the MLS team coming to Atlanta in 2017.

Soccer can be a really exciting sport to watch. I used to really love going to soccer games in college. Middlebury has an amazing soccer field, with huge natural burms of grass surrounding the playing area, so you could just sort of lay out in the sun and watch the game. I seem to remember drinking stiff Bloody Mary’s most of the time, and cheering for my friends. It was great.

But watching The World Cup can be brutal. Are the fields bigger or something? It seems like the cameras are filming from the upper deck, or maybe from a blimp floating in the clouds.

I’m sorry, Soccer, but you need a few tweaks if you want to be accepted by the people that matter. You know, us, the Americans.  Here are 4 simple changes that will make soccer into a real sport.

1. No More Ties

You can’t play a 90 minute game with near-constant running and then just walk away without a winner. There’s no closure. There’s no sense of accomplishment, of purpose. Call me old-fashioned, but finish the fucking game.

I don’t care how you do it. Overtimes, shootouts, whatever.

I personally like the endless sudden-death overtimes of Stanley Cup hockey, because it separates the men from the boys. It’s about who wants it more.

But I also love the mano-a-mano aspect of a shootout (in both hockey and soccer)…it’s what makes the pitcher/batter dynamic in baseball so great.

I don’t care how you do it. Just finish, please.

2. No More “Extra Time”

How ridiculous is a game with a clock but no end time? Was this dreamed up from Alice In Wonderland? Why have the clock at all? It is ridiculous that I even have to explain this to people.

A co-worker on Friday told me “Well then you would need someone to stop the clock every time play stopped!”

So what? Is it too hard to find a guy willing to take the job? Maybe try raising the asking salary a bit? I don’t understand. Buy a stopwatch on Amazon. Hit start when the game starts, hit stop when play stops, hit start when play starts. And on and on.  Isn’t the ref doing this anyway to calculate the “extra time?”  Why is it a secret?

You have a clock to measure time and create drama. Fans want to look at the clock and feel a sense of urgency. When there’s 2 minutes left, you want the team to start trying desperate measures, maybe pull their goalie. Something. It’s what makes basketball so exciting.

The downside, I guess, would be the crazy end game strategies where you foul constantly to stop play. To fix that, just copy hockey and make penalties really costly. More on that later.

The other way to go is remove the clock entirely and do like foosball – first to 10 wins. Throw the clock away. Might want to tweak it so it’s first to 1 or 2 though, because it takes forever to score. You can’t have a bunch of 30 second Mike Tyson style knockout matches.

I don’t know. Just hire a guy to hit a button during the game. Play a loud buzzer sound when time expires. It’s pretty simple.

3. Make the Rules Understandable

To help get my kids excited about sports this year, I helped them make large posterboard brackets  of both the March Madness men’s basketball tourney and the Stanley Cup.

We drew out the single-elimination brackets and they understood immediately.

The World Cup bracket, on the other hand, is extremely complex.

In the first round, there are 8 groups of 4 teams, which each play in a mini-tournament of 6 games. The top 2 teams from each group advance to a second round of single-elimination play.

How do they decide the top 2 teams? There’s a complex system of tie-breakers based on wins, draws, losses, ratios of goals scored and goals allowed and goal differentials. Sometimes all of those things aren’t enough so head-to-head match ups of the same items are required. It is even possible to get to a point where you “draw lots.”

It really says that on the FIFA website. “Draw lots.”  (see page 50 of this)

I don’t know what that means and I’m not going to google it. I’m assuming it’s some metric system version of flipping a coin.

It is ridiculous.

The 2nd round is a single-elimination tournament, which is much better. But even there, they get it wrong. Because it isn’t really single-elimination. The 2 losing teams in the semifinals get to play again. For 3rd place. That is so un-American I want to puke.

The worst part about the system is that sometimes it isn’t clear who to root for. Normally if you’re watching a tournament game that doesn’t involve your team, you root for the guys who you would rather have your team play. (Have someone else knock out the best team so you don’t have to face them)  You might just want to see a good game and enjoy it for sport, but you at least have a sense of how the outcome of the game could affect your team.

Today I watched Germany play Ghana (both teams in the same group as the U.S. team) and I didn’t know who to root for. A Germany win would knock Ghana out of the tournament. That’s a good thing, right? But a Germany win would also give Germany 6 points, making them a virtual lock to move on and take the top position. That doesn’t sound good.

Was a tie really the best possible outcome for U.S. fans? That way each team gets 1 point, preventing either from getting too strong?  Spoiler alert, it’s what happened.

So Soccer wanted me to watch a game and root for a tie. Root for a tie? How do you even do that? Doesn’t Soccer understand anything about a good story, about identifying with a character, about basic human nature?

This is what the TV announcers put up on the screen after the game to try to help dumb Americans figure out the situation.


I took a picture of it because it made me laugh so hard.  There is nothing here about coming in 1st or 2nd in the group (WAY too complicated for the average American).  Try to understand the first point about Germany, and how it differs from the third point about Ghana.  Is there a difference?  Basically whatever happens on Sunday doesn’t affect either team, right?  What if the U.S. wins?   Doesn’t matter?  WTF?

I made a chart with my son to try to understand and help teach him.  Here’s what it looks like.


It’s a little hard to read because we had to make it in pencil.  We made it in pencil because it’s so complicated that you have to keep erasing and rewriting to get it right.

4. Stop Rewarding Crybabies

This one is probably the most important on the list.

A guy trips on the grass. He immediately scrunches up his face and yells out in pain. Sometimes he rolls around wailing and clutching some part of his body, usually a toe. 98% of the time it is a completely fake dive, confirmed both by the modern magic of instant replay and the way he hops right back up and starts playing again 2 minutes later. It’s pathetic.

Then there’s the guy’s teammates. They just stand there, happy for a chance to take a break from chasing a ball around a field. They never step in to defend their teammate. Really? A guy just slide-tackled your buddy and made him cry out like his bone was jutting out from his flesh, and you’re just going to stand there and watch?

And what about the guy with the bone sticking out of his leg? Does he go after the guy who did it to him? No. He doesn’t even look for him. Basically he looks around to find the referee, like a 3 year old looking for his mommy, and cries to her that life isn’t fair.

I watched a Premier League game a couple of weeks ago with my boys. We watched a guy dive and then make this big dramatic show to the ref. I forgot my kids were there for a second and I yelled something like “Oh come on, Sally, are you kidding me?”

I spent the rest of the game explaining this comment to my inquisitive sons. (Thankfully they didn’t focus on the weird sexist “Sally” part.)

No, Daddy doesn’t think it’s wrong to cry if you get hurt.

No, Daddy doesn’t think it’s right to hurt another player intentionally.

Daddy just doesn’t like when players fake being hurt, that’s all.

So how do you fix this one? Recruit tougher guys to the sport? Definitely.

But that alone won’t fix soccer’s crybaby problem. You have 3 choices.

First, instant replay. Have each trip reviewed on video, and have a penalty for embellishment (again, look to hockey for your answers).

Second, beef up the penalties. Having a ref run down the field blowing a whistle and waving a yellow index card doesn’t exactly send a strong message. I don’t even understand what a yellow card is, by the way, I’m just saying that it doesn’t seem to have any impact. It seems like the game just goes on. Why not put the player in a penalty box for a while? Give the other team an advantage?

The last option, and this one is a little out there, is to just make it legal to trip and tackle. Let the guys wear pads and helmets and just go after each other. Ha. These guys are way too pretty for that.

Want to know my favorite moment in all of soccer?



I remember it vividly.  (Pretty sure I was watching from a bar in New York with Tim Hannan, during the Summer of Chris.)  It was terrible sportsmanship.  Disgraceful.  Just the worst kind of stupidity there is, especially in such an important game from one of the best players on the team. It was the act of a dumb brute.  It was insane.

But it was also great. I guarantee every American who saw that moment remembers it.

You want soccer to succeed in America? Get more Zidanes and follow the rules above, and you’ll have a real sport on your hands.

UPDATE: there’s a whole post here about how the U.S. can qualify for the next round, with a huge debate in the comments.  Are you kidding me?

Free Puppies!

It’s no secret that I like pranks.  I always have.  I’m a 13 year old boy at heart.

Luckily, some of my neighbors here in Atlanta are also into pranks.  We have some neighbors right next door who got into an epic prank war with us last year.  It involved a lost dog sign and some fairly large charges at UPS at CVS.

Fast forward 6 months and we’re back at it.

My mom actually came up with this idea.  We were sitting on the back deck brainstorming and my Mom suggested that we put up “Free Puppies” signs around the neighborhood to attract people to their house.

I was instantly on board.

The next day, I went to Home Depot and got some signage.  Then I found some helpers (aged 5 and 6) to help me glue pictures of cute puppies on the posterboard.  We placed 4 signs around the neighborhood: 1 in their yard, 1 up the street a bit, and 2 on the main road.

The boys and I were gleeful when we made the signs.  We literally couldn’t stop laughing while we glued the pictures and placed the signs.  It was so great to be able to share these special moments with my boys.  Here are the results (actual address blacked out):

Here’s us making the signs.  So happy.

About 10 minutes after we posted the signs, a woman in a Mercedes showed up next door and knocked on the door.  We were crouching in the bushes watching.  So epic.  At first our neighbors were confused, but they soon realized it was a prank and immediately suspected The Herbert’s.

Unfortunately, in all of our glee, we didn’t fully anticipate the consequences of our actions.

We had written the full address of our neighbor’s house on the signs, and posted it on the main road near our house.  So we were basically inviting random strangers to come and visit their house and knock on their door.  Not so cool.

We took down the signs and apologized for the stranger danger, but it was still well worth it.

Can’t wait to see how they respond.

Some Clarifications

Tons of reactions to my recent post about Obamacare in the Deep South. I’d like to clarify a few things.

First, not everyone in the South is racist. Not even close. One of the things I’ve been surprised by is just how cosmopolitan and worldly Atlanta is. Most of the people I’ve met, both at work and at home, are open-minded, intelligent and interesting people.

My post was really about 1 guy who I met that I suspected was letting racism drive his opinion of Obamacare. I wasn’t even sure that was true, I was just raising questions. And I certainly wasn’t intending to suggest all Southerners are racist.

I did extrapolate and write about broad cultural themes like the defiance that seems to permeate the mentality of many Southerners. I believe that exists, in the same way that San Francisco is permeated by a sense of the power of technology and New York is permeated by a sense of opportunity and hard work. It doesn’t mean everyone is racist, I’m just making some general observations.

Second, I don’t believe that anyone who opposes Obamacare is racist. That’s crazy talk. There are perfectly legitimate reasons to oppose Obamacare that have nothing to do with race. It will be expensive to provide health insurance to millions of Americans who didn’t have it before. Giving the government a larger role in healthcare could result in DMV-like mismanagement, as evidenced by the disastrous rollout of the website. And there are some serious questions about the President’s prior claims that people can keep their existing health insurance.

All that said, I wish the Obamacare haters would make their own proposals or at least acknowledge that the health care system doesn’t work well today for many millions of Americans. Denying that there is a problem is ignorant and foolish.

Third, I am not a liberal. Most of my new friends here in Atlanta think I’m a flaming left-wing crusader. I may be socially liberal in the sense that I strongly support gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana, women’s reproductive rights, gun control, and measures to deal with climate change. But I also believe in things that many conservatives believe in, like reducing our debt.

Many people identify with a political party as if it were their favorite sports team. They use terms like “we” and “they.” When Obama makes a gaffe, people sometimes send me emails to gloat, the same way I would send a disparaging note to Red Sox fans if their team lost. It’s crazy. I’m a citizen of the U.S. first, not a “fan” of the Democratic party. I don’t consider politics a game.

I tend to vote for Democrats because the social issues are so core to my beliefs and I just can’t get past the blatant bigotry of many Republican positions (e.g. Boehner’s refusal to support the anti-discrimination bill that the Senate just passed). But my support for Democrats doesn’t mean I take their side on every issue.

So don’t put me in box!

That is all.

Obamacare in the Deep South

article346153_confederate-flagI talked about Obamacare with some real Southerners last night.

I mostly listened, figuring this would be a good chance to get inside the heads of some real conservatives. These were intelligent, well-educated people, the type who I thought would be least likely to just repeat what they heard on Fox News.

The overriding sentiment seemed to be that health care works just fine as it is. The conversation went something like this:

“If you can’t afford a doctor, you go to the emergency room. You still get health care. I don’t see why we need to change anything.”

“But then you get an enormous bill and you end up having to declare bankruptcy. Don’t you think there’s something wrong with that?”

“You don’t understand how it works. Listen, I didn’t have insurance when I was in my twenties. I hurt my hand and I went in to see a doctor and had him look at it. He said he could fix it but that I would need to fill out this paperwork and go see this doctor and all this nonsense. I said no, tell me how much it will cost for you to fix it right here, right now. We eventually agreed on $250.”

“And what if instead of needing a cortisone shot in your finger, you needed treatment for a serious disease, and you couldn’t afford to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars? Would you still feel the same way?”

“Look at my cousin, he had a brain tumor and he didn’t have insurance and he just went into the ER and they took care of him. Doctors and nurses and people that start hospitals – they don’t care about money – they just want to help people.”

The problem here is obvious. This guy doesn’t see that there is a problem when 45 million Americans don’t have health insurance. He sees nothing wrong with the ER solution, where sick people without health insurance just go into the ER to receive care, and end up declaring bankruptcy when they can’t pay their bills.

I explained that bankruptcy ruins your credit for 7 years and how difficult that would make it to get a mortgage. His response: “come on, these people couldn’t afford a house before they got sick.”

“These people.” I’ll come back to that in a minute.

He offered his own alternative to Obamacare: 2 systems. One would be for people who can afford health insurance and would be stocked with doctors and nurses and professionals who “care about making money.” The other would be a government system, with lower reimbursements and fewer service offerings, for people who can’t afford health insurance. It would be stocked with doctors and nurses and professionals who don’t care about money.

He likened it to education. Private schools for people who can afford it, and public schools for everyone else.

I asked him if he thought there should be a permanent upper class and a permanent lower class. He said no, that everyone should have the same opportunities but that there shouldn’t be extra artificial steps put in place for the privileged. Not sure what that meant.

There was a racial undertone to the conversation that is hard to describe. “These people,” he said. Maybe my imagination was running wild. But it seemed like this guy thought President Obama was trying to steal money from white people and give it to black people.

I hope I was wrong.

It may not have been a racial thing. But under the surface there was a real resentment to any kind of change that could undermine his position in society. I think that resentment is part of the Southern psyche. Let me explain.

140 years ago, southern white men could own other people. They ran plantations and lived a life of relative luxury. Then the intellectuals from the North protested and tried to get them to change their ways. So they rebelled. They lost.

Now, even a full 140 years later, every attempt to change society is an affront to their way of life. Even if they see the moral problem of slavery, they still resent being told what to do. And even if the proposed change will help them, like for example by protecting them from being denied care for pre-existing conditions. Any attempt to change things is an attempt to take away their freedom.

Is it worse when the proposed changes come from a black President? I don’t know. Perhaps I’m connecting dots that don’t exist.

It may not be a racial issue. But there is definitely a certain defiance that permeates Society down here in the deep South. It’s the same defiance that drives some people here to fly Confederate flags.

It is fascinating.


I caught a Braves game last week with a large group from my company. Good times. I always enjoy the American pastime. I especially love seeing how the locals customize their ballpark. For example, Turner Field has mist stations to keep everyone cool in the hot Atlanta summers.

tomahawk chopWhat I wasn’t prepared for was The Chop. During a rally, the crowd stands up and starts swinging their arms up and down, simulating a tomahawk chop. They also do a whooping chant, Ooooo oh oh ooooooo, ah oh, oh ah oooooooo.

It’s insane.

What are you supposed to tell your children when they ask what The Chop means?

“Daddy, why do we move our arms up and down like this?”

“We’re intimidating the other team by pretending that we’re going to scalp them.”

“Daddy, what’s ‘scalp them’ mean?”

“Scalping is the act of cutting off someone’s scalp, the top part of their head. Europeans used to offer bounties for dead native Americans, but carrying around dead bodies was too hard so they just chopped off the top part of their head and carried that back to collect their money.”

Not exactly the conversation I want to have with my 5 year old.

It’s fun to have traditions and chants, and I recognize that many people don’t even know what they’re chanting. But isn’t it just absolutely astounding that in 2013 we are still doing this? It’s the total cartoonization of native American culture.

The team encourages it. There are tomahawk graphics all over the stadium and they move up and down during rallies, to get the crowd to start chanting.

chop onEven the sponsors get in on the action. There is an enormous statue of a cow in center field, from our good friends at Chick-Fil-A. We know they like to take every opportunity to advance good clean Christian values. The cow is wearing a sign that says “CHOP ON, CHIKIN LUVERS, CHOP ON.” As if God himself gives you permission to denigrate the savages.

A colleague suggested a good analogy. Imagine that the Nazis won World War II and now controlled all of Europe. The mascots for the soccer teams would be named after Jews. So instead of the Braves and the Indians and the Redskins, we’d have the Steinbergs and the Rosensterns and the Goldbergs. The crowd would have some sort of chant that sounded like a gas chamber filling up, and everyone would just sort of go along with it because most of the Jews were dead anyway. Chick-Fil-A would drop a million bucks to put up a big cow with a sign that says “GAS ON, CHIKIN LUVERS, GAS ON.”

It’s not that far-fetched.

Peepee on the Beach

“I have to go peepee, Daddy!”

Those can be the 6 most annoying words in the English language, when said at the right time. It’s usually when you’re out at a restaurant and the food has just arrived. Or when you’re driving in the car and home is about 15 minutes away.

Good parents are vigilant about bathroom breaks. Every time there’s a good bathroom opportunity, you take it. You force everyone in the family to go. “But I don’t have to go peepee, Daddy!” “You don’t have to go, but you have to try.” That gets them at least 50% of the time.

Yesterday, Charlie made his announcement on the beach. The closest bathroom was back up at the hotel, with a mile of sand in between. Not to mention a despised sand-rinsing operation. No, going back to the room was an emergency situation reserved for #2.

So my wife says “Ok Charlie, you can go in the water. Come on now, hurry, hurry. Daddy’s going to take you in the water.”

Charlie runs down the beach to me and starts to wade into the water.

“Daddy, can you hold my hand? Because I’m a little bit scared.”

“Sure, buddy, I’ll hold your hand.”

We walked until the water was about 3 inches high. Then Charlie abruptly stopped, released my hand, pulled down his bathing suit, and starting peeing. No warning whatsoever. He did it like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Did I mention that the beach was crowded with people?

I was about to yell “No, Charlie! Stop! We have to get deeper!” but before it got out of my mouth I realized it was too late. And it was too cute.

My wife immediately jumped up with the camera and snapped a few shots. As you can see, I tried to distance myself a bit from the situation. I don’t think anyone bought it.


Pirate’s Booty

“I’m hungy for beakfast, Daddy.”

“Ok, buddy, what would you like?”

“Pirate’s Booty, pease.”

“Well, we don’t eat Pirate’s Booty for breakfast. How about some Cheerios?”

“No! I’m ONLY hungy for Pirate’s Booty. I will NOT eat ANYthing else!”

And so my day begins with a Pirate’s Booty inspired temper tantrum.

Not that I blame the kid. Pirate’s Booty is unnaturally delicious. The light fluffy cheese, the finger lickin’ goodness. I want some, too.

But I can’t teach my children to start their day off with junk food.

“Sorry buddy, but we don’t eat Pirate’s Booty for breakfast. You know that.”

“Mommy lets us.”

Where did he learn to lie? There’s no way she lets them eat Pirate’s Booty for breakfast. Is there?

“Well Daddy is in charge right now, and Daddy doesn’t let you eat Pirate’s Booty for breakfast.”

“But Mommy sometimes lets us!”

Really, Greta? Really?

“I don’t think Mommy lets you eat Pirate’s Booty for breakfast. But I don’t really care. Because Daddy is in charge right now, and Daddy says you have to eat something healthy.”

“No fair!”

Ah, fairness. Now we’re onto something I can understand. As a child, my sisters and I fought constantly. I hated it when my parents resolved our arguments with solutions that weren’t fair. “But that’s not fair, Mom!” I would complain. “Well, life isn’t fair, Chris,” she would respond.

I rarely prevailed in changing my parents’ decisions, but I did graduate from childhood with the desire to make life more fair. I am still trying. I gravitate to conflict situations. Like when little boys who think they can start the day with Pirate’s Booty.

NFW, little man. Your brother is eating Cheerios, you will eat Cheerios.

And he did.

An hour later, my slumbering wife woke up, and this happened:



ilovectSometimes I get a little homesick.

I’m probably not supposed to admit that.  Schoolgirls get homesick.  But it’s true.

When I come home from work at night, I don’t really feel like I’m home.

At first I thought it was because I was accustomed to a 90 minute train ride to decompress, and my 20 minute drive wasn’t enough time to make the transition from work to home.  But that’s not it.  Then I thought maybe it was the fact that all of our furniture hadn’t arrived.  Or that the neighborhood is still under construction with 5 new homes going up all around us.  Or that the boys haven’t started school yet.

Those are probably all contributing factors, but none of them really tell the whole story.

My wife likes to remind me that, except for a short summer abroad in Spain, I’ve never really lived outside of New England.  And she’s right.  If you consider New York part of New England, which it isn’t, she is absolutely right.  I grew up in Connecticut, spent a summer in Boston, went to college in Vermont, lived in New York for 3 years, went to grad school in New Hampshire, and then returned to Connecticut.  All of those places were within easy driving distance to where I grew up.

Not that I’ve ever been the type to return to the safe haven of home every weekend.  Not even close.  But perhaps knowing that I could made all the difference?


I think it’s more likely that those places have always been familiar to me.  And I could branch out from them slowly.  I had been up to Vermont skiing a million times when I started college there.  New York is an easy train ride from Connecticut and I had a network of friends and old classmates always nearby.  Not here in Georgia.

My network here consists of colleagues from work, 1 friend from business school and 1 friend from college.  Actually my college friend just moved to Houston, so I don’t even have that.  We’re totally on our own down here.  It feels like I’m living in another country.

I love traveling to other countries, so you would think this experience would be pleasant.  But it’s not another country, and it doesn’t look like another country.  All the stores are the same as anywhere else.  Chain restaurants and chain grocery stores and chain clothing stores – except for the gun stores, the Chick-Fil-A’s and the ridiculous number of churches, this could be any town in America.

I was in New York last week on business, just a day trip, and it really drove the point home to me.  I took a taxi from LaGuardia to Times Square and passed a dozen familiar places, but suddenly I was an outsider looking in.  All the things I hated about New York receded into the background–the lack of light, the garbage on the streets, the in-your-face commercialism–and all I saw was a vibrant city.  A vibrant city I had voluntarily left, just so I could make a few extra bucks.

“What have I done?” I thought.

Home is wherever my family is.  That’s what I had convinced myself of.  And it’s true.  But that’s not all home is.  Home is a place where you feel comfortable, where you have friends and shared experiences, where you feel safe.

And that will take time.


The Renaissance on Sewell Mill Road

Most of the homes around here in Marietta, Georgia are in subdivisions.  Most of the subdivisions have names.  Like Heritage Oaks, Beverly Hills Estates, Brownmoore Manor, Stoneoak Pointe or Chastain Enclave.

I live in “The Preserve at Lost Mill Trace.”

But there are places that are worse.

Exhibit A: “The Renaissance.”  Here’s what the houses in “The Renaissance” look like:


And here’s how they market them:

The last two remaining homes in this exclusive enclave of 25 executive estate residences in the heart of East Cobb is presented by Olympia Homes. These million dollar homes are for discriminating buyers desiring luxurious details, timeless quality and old world craftsmanship with a distinctive European flair. Once you’ve seen The Renaissance, nothing else in prestigeous [sic] Cobb County will compare!

The decorations surrounding their subdivision entrance are the BEST in East Cobb.  Instead of lion statues, they have murals.  Of the Renaissance.  Apparently they had major problems with vandalism so now there are cameras trained on each mural with big warning signs.







What do people do when they drive past this neighborhood?  Do they turn green with envy at the obvious sophistication of the entrance?  Is this what people consider desirable?

Or do they do what I do: laugh uncontrollably?

The Regular Guys

I live in Atlanta now.

It’s surreal.  I still feel like I live in Connecticut and am just here for a short trip.  But I’m not.  All my stuff is here, I’m a homeowner, and I even waited in line 3 hours for a Georgia driver’s license.

But it doesn’t feel like home yet.

I listen to satellite radio on my commute, mostly Howard Stern and Bloomberg Radio, and Lithium and the 90’s channel.  Those are all things that make me feel like I’m back in Connecticut.  Earlier this week I had a loaner from the dealership and it didn’t have satellite radio. So I had to listen to 100.5, a local rock station with a morning show called The Regular Guys.

You’ve never heard more southern bigotry in your life.

regularguysThese “regular guys” are outrageous.  They did a segment on NBA player Jason Collins coming out as gay, and kept referring to homosexuality as “a lifestyle.”  When a caller challenged them, they suggested that the caller must be gay.

“How do you know that gay people aren’t checking you out in the locker room?”

“Because I have gay friends, and they tell me the truth.”

“You have gay friends?  Really?  But you’re straight?”


“Have you ever, you know, experimented with them?  Because it sounds like you know a lot more than you’re letting on.”

And on and on.

Then later they asked people to call in and tell jokes.  If someone was able to make The Regular Guys laugh, they would get free tickets or money or something.  All the jokes were racist jokes about Mexicans or blacks or gays.  One of the winners: “What word starts with N and ends with R and is something that you never want to call a black person?”  The answer: “Neighbor.”


Stuff like that makes me feel like I’m not at home.  Like I’m living in a foreign country, surrounded by people with a totally different set of ideas and experiences.   Totally backwards.

I haven’t met anyone in person who would tell that joke, but still, hearing it on the radio makes me think that those people exist around here.

I live in the South.  Better get used to it.

Infinity & Beyond!

“Daddy how many stars do you have?” Jack asked.

“3,” I replied.

“I have 9 zillion thousand infinity and beyonds!”

Charlie rode his scooter next to Jack’s big wheel.  “And I have ten thousand!”  His eyes opened really wide like I had never heard a number that big.

We were racing in circles around the cul-de-sac and playing a game.  The first one to 19 stars wins.  You get a star by going fast.  Somehow my 4 year old became the judge of who gets a star and he was very generous.

Jack was constantly asking how many stars he had so he could keep straight who was in the lead, who was second, and who was in last place.  Charlie made sure he always stayed in the lead, that Jack was a close second, and that Daddy lost.  They were gleeful.

The best part, though, was when I chased them.  I was on rollerblades and I could catch up to them in seconds.  They would squeal with delight and redouble their efforts to go faster.  They had no chance.  Daddy was unrelenting.  The tickle machine was coming no matter what you did.

As we finally headed back to our driveway, I realized that I had left my phone back at the house.  It had been almost an hour since I checked my email.  It was the best hour of my week.

Do Real Leaders Always Want the Ball?

john_stocktonI had 3 assists at my hockey game tonight.  Glory!

Those assists got me thinking about things.  I’ve always valued a beautiful pass more than a beautiful shot.  There’s something so inspiring about doing the unselfish thing and looking to help your teammates succeed.  When I watch basketball, soccer or hockey – I always love the pass.

What about in business?  Can the passer find success in business?  Can you be a real leader if you’d prefer to avoid the limelight and make your contributions by assisting others?  Or does a real leader always want the ball, as we are so often taught?

I think the answer is clear.  The most important skill of a great business leader is to have the floor vision of a great point guard, and know how to distribute the ball to where it will do the most damage.  Sometimes a great leader shoots, but only when it’s the best available option.  They are always thinking about helping the team win.

I recently discovered something about myself, helped along by a friend.  It was somewhat of an epiphany.

I want the ball, but I’m afraid to take it.

I’m afraid someone will call me a ball hog, afraid that I won’t be a good passer, afraid that I’ll fail.

When I think about the times when I’ve ‘wanted the ball,’ it’s when I knew exactly what I was going to do with it.  That feels good.

When I don’t know what I’m doing, or I feel outmatched, I retreat into my shell and tell myself that the game doesn’t matter anyway.  I beat to my own drummer, there are more important things in life, etc.  Immature, escapist and unproductive.

Sometimes I worry that I don’t have the competitive spirit, you know, the kind that says ‘win at all costs.’  But I do.  It burns very strongly in me.  It is precisely because I’m so competitive that I am afraid to make mistakes, afraid to put myself out there, afraid to lose.

There is only one solution.  Don’t be afraid to fail.  Do whatever it takes to find the confidence required.  Know, deep in my bones, that when the time comes I’ll know what to do, and I’ll always work to help the team succeed.  My heart is in the right place, my head is screwed on straight…I just need to grab the ball and start playing.

In business and in life, I have strong teammates.  To win, I need to trust myself enough to want the ball, and trust that my teammates will be there to help me win.

Downsides to Exercise

This just happened.

Screen Shot 2013-04-13 at 6.31.53 PM

I’m running 10 minute miles and I’m chafing like Chris Farley.  It’s embarrassing but I’m addicted to Nike+.  I’m competing for Most Distance Ran against 4 other people.  Every time I run, I add miles to the tally and I watch myself move up the rankings.  It’s incredibly motivating.  I cannot bear to fall behind.


By the way, Jeff, come on man.  3.16 miles is pathetic.

Or maybe he’s easing into it?…

Not me.  I’m as out of shape as I’ve ever been, the result of living on the road for 6 months, eating out, not exercising, and drinking too much beer.   The quintessential skinny fat man with a saggy belly.  I disgust myself.

It’s time to start getting into shape.  Now.  And not just because I can’t fit into my clothes anymore.

I joined a hockey league in Atlanta.  It’s a rec league and the level of play is very similar to the Tripod hockey league at Tuck.  I’ve played in 1 game so far and it was a total disaster.  I was doing 30 second shifts because every time I skated 10 feet down the ice I wound end up huffing and puffing with my hands on my knees.  I thought I was going to die.  When the buzzer sounded, I was so relieved I almost cried.  Then I realized it was just the end of the second period, and I did cry.

Not really, but I felt like it.

That has to change.  Hockey glory is within my reach.  All I need to do is get my ass in shape.  You can’t change what you can’t measure so I’m thinking about buying this bathroom scale.  It’s $99 but it syncs with an iPhone app and lets you do cool shit like track your BMI on a graph.   If you support this purchase, please send an email directly to my wife to explain your rationale and the reason for your support.

Thank you.  That is all.



I just had a dream that I won the lottery.  $700 million.  I gave $10M each to my family and some of my friends.  Most of them tried to refuse it but my largesse eventually prevailed.

I quit my job, started working on writing a book, and bought a 5BR townhouse in Greenwich Village.

We decided to maintain our home base in Atlanta, but we immediately finished the basement, put in California closets, and installed a home stereo system that ran throughout the house.

I flew in 3 financial advisors – all friends – to pitch me on their services.  I don’t remember the outcome of all that.

The press was all over us.  It was crazy.  They analyzed every word of Herbietown.  “Atheist Wins Lottery!”  Stuff like that.

Then I woke up.

What does it mean?  I know the lotto is a tax on the mathematically challenged and that daydreaming about being rescued by the lottery is a stupid way to go through life, but this was my subconscious telling me what to do.  I had nothing to do with it.

Should I start buying lottery tickets?

The South After 10 Days

A lot of people have asked me for my general impression of living in the South so far. After 10 days, I can’t say that I have anything too exciting to report.  People are super nice and welcoming, the traffic isn’t as bad as I feared, and money goes a lot further.

But there are some trouble spots for me. The most acute ones are around guns and religion. They got ’em, I don’t. No one has pushed it on me too strongly but it’s subtly woven into the culture.

Take yesterday, for instance. It was Charlie’s 4th birthday. We took him to Legoland with his cousins. Legoland is like an interactive museum for kids, with rides, games, workshops and a 4D movie theater. It’s perfect for young children. Well, almost perfect.


When you first walk in to Legoland, you can go right or left. To the right is a miniature representation of famous landmarks in Atlanta, entirely built out of Legos. It is really cool and definitely worth seeing.

legolandgunsTo the left is a ride. I expected something like the ‘It’s a Small World’ ride at Disney world. You know, you lean back and listen to some cheesy kid’s music and marvel at stuff made out of Legos.

But no, this is Georgia. In Georgia, it’s a first person shooter game. No joke. 4 and 5 year old kids load up in a little car, grab their laser guns, and try to shoot as many things as possible. Every thing you see is a target, and the more stuff you shoot, the more points you get.

I got 6,250 points. Greta got 6,900 points. My boys got about 250 points each. Losing to my wife was embarrassing enough, until I saw the father/son combo behind us. The father got over 30,000 points and the son, who was maybe 6 years old, got over 12,000. They saw their scores, high-fived each other and got back in the line to do it again. Yee-haw!

Shooting stuff is definitely fun, but in the age of mass killings in schools, I’m not sure I want my children playing with guns at Legoland.

Cartoon JesusI also don’t want them learning fairy tales about Jesus in preschool. Most of the preschools are connected to churches down here. I find it bizarre, though obviously I see the benefit for the churches. Get ’em while they’re young and all that.  I also see the benefit for religious parents.  They want to instill the same beliefs and values in their children.

I’m totally fine with that, I just wish there were more choices for us non-religious parents.

I want my children to learn about all religions, eventually, when they are old enough to make up their minds for themselves. Teaching them about one religion at such an early age seems like it would be counterproductive and confusing.

Though I had a different reaction when I heard about a Jewish preschool in the area. Greta told me about it and I immediately got excited. For some reason, I think I’m OK with a Jewish preschool. I don’t worry about an overdose of religious teachings. How’s that for hypocrisy?

I think we’re going to like it here.  Just need to find our niche.

The Mounting

Big props to my brother-in-law, Lance.  The man not only put me up in his home for the last 5 months, but he dropped everything and came over yesterday to help me mount my television on the wall.  Check it:


You can’t see any wires because they snake through the wall and into the cabinet.  All of my devices are neatly stacked on the left there: a U-Verse box, an Apple TV, a Roku, a Blu-Ray player, my Apple router, and my Weather Underground personal weather station relay.  Everything just works.

Lance is a special man.  He carries around a leatherman, a flashlight, and an astronaut pen wherever he goes.  He owns 3 Volvo’s and he does all the maintenance himself.  He owns professional tools for just about everything.

He’s not just handy, he’s a brilliant consumer.  Before we make any major purchases, we call Lance.  There are good odds that he’s done the research and knows what to buy, where to buy it, and when to buy it, for the best deal.   He doesn’t skimp on things, he believes in quality…but he also believes in not overpaying.  Especially when it comes to stuff you can do yourself.

Like his basement.  He finished his entire basement by himself, and he did it to code.  He framed it out, put in walls, ceilings, plumbing, a window, floors.  He’s ridiculous.  It’s no coincidence that Jesus was a carpenter.

When Best Buy tried to charge me $269 to mount a TV, I walked out of the store.  I can do this, I thought.  I did it at my last house, I can do it again.  I thought I’d spend all weekend drilling holes and playing with wires, but with Lance’s considerable help, it was easy.  Not only did he come with technical know-how and another set of muscles to lift the TV, he had 2 ladders, 2 levels, a crazy drill, and some insane kevlar string to route through the wall.   He also played along with all the jokes about how good he is at mounting things.

We had to take a run to Home Depot halfway through the job.  I feel inadequate at Home Depot because I don’t know what a 2×4 is.  I do not belong there.  But Lance exudes confidence.  He strolls in like he owns the place, finds exactly what he needs, and gets out.  It is clear just from the way he walks that he has the chops to see through any project.

Will I become more handy as Lance inspires me to take on more projects?

We’ll see.  The next thing I want to build is a pong table and a dartboard for the basement…