30 June 2011

Happy Social Media Day!


Mashable has declared today to be Social Media and to mark the occasion, my pals at Adroyt have posted the video of the round table discussion I participated in at the annual conference of The American Society of Journalists and Authors. The ASJA Conference took place at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York and our talk took place on April 30, 2011.

Clips three and four are all about me and boy is that gratifying. The woman sitting next to me is none other than Dominique Browning, design press superstar. That someone I admire greatly is paying attention to me is doubly gratifying.

You can watch the rest of the videos on Adroyt's blog so head on over there and tell them I sent you.

29 June 2011

Another beautiful faucet from Brizo

Brizo did it again in their kitchen faucet, the Solna.

I love simple and minimal and the Solna lines right up with what I think a kitchen faucet ought to look like. I remember seeing it when it was still a prototype and it looks even better now as a production model.

The Solna's more than just a pretty faucet though, look what it can do.

That's right, it has a hidden pullout that locks into place with Brizo's MagneDock™ when it's not in use.

Well done Brizo, well done. Check out the Solna Collection and the rest of Brizo's offerings on their website.

28 June 2011

Bravery or madness?

This is the Verzasca Dam in Ticino, Switzerland. In this shot, it has its spillways open.


The Verzasca Dam is 220 meters tall (that's 720 feet) and here it is with its spillways closed.


This is my great friend Doug bunjee jumping off the Verzasca Dam on Monday afternoon.

Not bad for a man of 52. Better him than me though, I can barely stand watching the video. I used to be fearless when it came to this sort of thing, but those days are long past. Thanks for the thrill Doug, I can't wait to hear all about it when you get back here.

Let's hear it for Melody!

Melody McFarland is a very regular commenter on this blog. She's also written a few guests posts and thanks to the power of the internet, she's also a good friend. Last April, I profiled her new venture (and adventure), Melody's Pet Photography.

I've always thought that he had one of the best photographer's eyes I've ever seen and I'm thrilled to hear that her business is taking off and she's getting the recognition she deserves. Watch this:


You can check out more of her work on her website here. And in the meantime Melody, congratulations!

Salvation comes from an electrical outlet

In my internet meanderings yesterday I came across this.

Yes, that's an electrical outlet with two, count 'em, two USB ports. FastMac is bringing you the world on a platter and they start at just $22.95 apiece directly from them.

Imagine never being more than an outlet away from topping off your smartphone or Bluetooth earpiece.

Look complicated? It's not. If you can change an electrical outlet you can convert an electrical outlet to one of these babies. Here are the instructions.

It's the simple things that make life so grand, don't you think?

22 June 2011

Meet Jill Vendituoli and her amazing tapestries

A year ago, I profiled my friend Todd Vendituoli's brilliant renovation of a house in Eluthera, The Bahamas. Todd's a builder who divides his time between Vermont and Eleuthera and you can read about his project here.

Well Todd's back in the US for the time being and last night he sent me a video that profiled his sister Jill's art and I was really blown away by it. Clearly, the talent pool runs pretty deep in the Vendituoli clan.

Jill creates tapestries using a needle, fabric and a palette of 450 colors, but her video speaks for itself. Check this out.

From Jill's website:
One of the things that attracted me to this medium of tapestry making was its traditional origin. The idea of a late 20th century woman working at a craft that had been one of the few creative outlets for women prior to this century appealed to me.

During the last two decades, it's been a joyful challenge to unite my creations with those of my stitching forebears. But, unlike these women, I have operated under the liberated assumption that if I can see it in my head, then I can stitch it with my hands: contemporary vision meets historical technique. By blending 450 colors of thread I can create a palette as extensive as a painter's. However, because of the slow and labor-intensive character of tapestry making, my art defies the high-speed confines of our postmodern world and connects us all to a past that endures. I hope that you enjoy viewing the fruits of my labor of love.
I love seeing someone take an ancient art form and breathe new life into while keeping true to its roots, hence my love of mosaics. In a lot of ways, Jill's work reminds me of a mosaic, only her medium is thread. Amazing stuff.

Jill's art is on display in her West Newfield, ME studio but you can find her on her website and on her new Facebook page. Show her some love!

21 June 2011

Relaxing and recharging: a Blog Off post

Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "How do you relax and recharge?"


I work a lot and I haven't had a real vacation in longer than I want to admit. While it's true I've been a traveling fool for the last couple of years, none of that travel's been leisure travel. Yes, I've been to some amazing places but going to press conferences and product seminars when you have jet lag doesn't count as R&R in my book. Even so, it's a good problem to have.

So to bide my time until my next vacation, I've picked up the habit of what I call taking mini vacations. They can take less than an hour and they're a short walk down the street.


I live four blocks away from the waterfront park system we have in St. Pete. 101 years ago, the City of St. Petersburg decided it wanted to preserve its downtown waterfront for the enjoyment of all and so they established a grand program to buy up waterfront property and turn everything they bought into a park.


It took a number of years, but eventually the park system would span for the many miles of downtown waterfront and 101 years later, St. Petersburg has an asset every other waterfront city in the world would kill for. Along those many miles of park you can find everything from beaches to tennis courts, dog runs to botanical gardens, marinas to the largest city pool I've ever seen. That park system typifies St. Pete's commitment to the quality of life of its residents and it's one of the things that holds me here.

Few things can soothe and recharge me the way looking at water and watching wildlife can and the parks provide both of those things in spades. An early morning walk (or in my younger days, a jog) can recharge me and get me ready to go back and keep plugging away at what ever I'm doing.

That I can walk a couple of blocks east and see pelicans and wild dolphins and herons and ibises and egrets and smell jasmine and dodge falling coconuts convinces me further that I'm the most fortunate man alive. When I was a kid in rural Pennsylvania I dreamed about seeing the things I see every day.

If I get down there early enough to watch the sun rising, I have most of the parks to myself. There is no other more amazing thing than to sit on the sea wall at the bottom of my street, to warm myself in the rays of a rising sun and to have wild dolphins chasing mullet a few short feet below me.

So my mini vacations in the park tide me over for now. As much as I enjoy my time spent down there. I really need a vacation.

As the day goes on, the rest of the participants in today's Blog Off will appear miraculously at the end of this post. Keep checking back and check out everybody's postss. You can follow along in Twitter as well, just look for the hashtag #LetsBlogOff. If you'd like more information about about the Blog Off or if you'd like to see the results of previous Blog Offs, you can find the main website here.

19 June 2011

This guy

This guy is my dad. He's my dad and I love him more than he'll ever know.

My dad and his much-loved brother Tom.

He's the smartest, most driven human being I've ever met. No one else on the planet works as hard or as persistently as he does. I draw tremendous inspiration from how he lives his life and I find myself time and again falling short of the example he set. However, that's a self assessment only. Such a thought would never cross his mind.

My dad and his mother at his high school graduation.

In my dad's eyes, I'm the smartest kid on the block. I'm the gangly eighth grader who could bench press his own weight. I'm the runner who could outpace anyone. He sees a vision of me that drives me to do better and keep striving.

My dad and my sister Adele with my grandmother Stewart's dog, Poochie.

When I was a little guy, my two younger brothers and I spent a Saturday with him in his office. It was an icy, frigid day in the dead of winter. When we were driving home we came upon the scene of an accident. Dad pulled over and let the people who were involved sit inside our car to get warm while they waited for the police and tow trucks to show up. That kind of generosity and thoughtfulness defines my father and it left an impression on me that influences my every interaction today. I had never seen a black person until then, as strange as it sounds, but his color blind compassion is one of the things I'm proudest to have have inherited from him.

My four older siblings looking down at the river and my dad.

When my parents met in the early '50s, dad was a draftee who was due to ship out to Germany. Once he got there, he sent for my mother and they married. Together, they set the standard for what I see as a solid relationship. My parents have a bond that's unbreakable and 56 years later is as strong as the day they committed to it. Through 56 years, seven kids, 22 grandkids and three great-grandkids, mom and dad still hold hands when they go for a walk. Anybody who can keep a relationship alive for 56 years is a hero in my book and that I'm descended from two of them fills me with a pride I have a hard time explaining.

My mom and dad upon her arrival in Frankfurt.

Dad's a lifetime learner and that's something else I get from him directly. My wanderlust and love of travel come from watching him fly off to such exotic lands as Japan and Ghana when I was a kid, but his embrace of  learning as a retiree is downright inspiring. He studies calculus and Medieval art as he walks into the latter part of his 70s. How many people do things like that?

My brother Matt and my sister Adele on a Father's Day that took place longer ago than any of us want to think about.
I'm not one who dwells in regret, but one regret I do have is that I couldn't see the man my dad is for the first half of my life. However, as I get older I see that he and I are in fact the same person. The 21-year-old version of me would have never suspected such a thing but as I get older, the more true that statement is. As a middle-aged man, I can't imagine someone better to emulate.

My dad walking my brother Steve off the dock in Ontario. My brothers Tom and Matt are on either side of me in the background.

Dad was a bit of a cypher when I was a kid and it was tough to see the human being behind the role. However, now that all that's behind everybody I see him as him when he's interacting with his grandkids. The love he showered on us when my sibs and I were kids was always tempered with the caution and lessons of a parent, but with his grandkids he abandons himself to love in its purest form.

My parents whiling away the hours during a much-deserved break in Ontario.

Watching him teach a quick lesson in basic physics to Mia, Maggie and Aaron; or seeing him beam when Elena tells him of her latest sales quota exceeded; and when he holds Sarah or Marilynn's latest baby the man shines with something I'm just glad to bask in.

My folks amid the Texas wildflowers in the 1980s.

All of us; Ray, Cyndee, Marylinn, Travis, Kolbe, Colleen, Jessica, Ray J, Will, Adele, Lou, Sarah, Andrew, Pauline, Xavier, John, Nancy, Elena, Catherine, Louie, Isabella, Matt, Diana, Matty, Tony, David, Mia, Maggie, Mia, Aaron, Anne-Marie, Robert, Tom, Mary, Max, me, Dave and Steve join together to salute you on this Father's Day. Every one of us will say this today, but let me make it public. Dad I love you and thanks for being such an amazing man. You're my favorite person on earth and I am proud to be called your son.

My dad, the father of six sons, always reminds me of this song by Jacques Brel. Dad, this one's for you.

16 June 2011

A night at the opera again

On Tuesday night I had the distinct pleasure to attend the final performance of The St. Petersburg Opera's production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. My pleasure was magnified by an order of magnitude because I was there with the great Ginny Powell. Ginny had never been to an opera before and it was an honor to introduce her to the art form.

I met Ginny through Twitter about a year ago and last night was yet another testament to the power of that medium.

The St. Pete Opera's staging of Madama Butterfly was spectacular. The Little Opera Company That Could hit another one out of the park last night and it's been a joy to watch them grow and prosper through their five seasons. That I live two blocks away from the theater where they perform just makes it all the more sweet.

Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly made its debut at La Scala in Milan in 1904, it's gone on to enter the Canon of the opera world and has been in continuous production since its premiere.

Like all operas, it's a morality tale and it deals in archetypes. It never ceases to amaze me that that the human condition is the same as it ever was and grand operas prove that time and again. Madama Butterfly is an Italian opera set in Japan at the turn of the last century. Cio-Cio-San (aka Madama Butterfly) is a 15-year-old geisha who's sold in an arranged marriage to and American Naval Officer, Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton. Pinkerton goes back to sea shortly after their marriage and leaves Cio-Cio-San to raise their son with the help of her servant, Suzuki. Pinkerton promises to return before the "robins build their nests" but three years go by before he comes back to Nagasaki.

When he finally returns, he has his new American wife in tow and they plan to take Cio-Cio-San's son to raise as their own. With nothing left to give and nothing left to lose, Cio-Cio-San kills herself in front of Pinkerton.

It takes three hours and three acts to tell that story, but that's it in a nutshell. It's interesting that even in the early 1900s the US had an international image problem. It's interesting too that the story takes place in Nagasaki, a city the US all but wiped off the face of the earth in 1945.

Madama Butterfly is a glorious way to spend three hours. The St. Petersburg Opera's staging of it even more so. Cio-Cio-San was played by Lara Michole Tillotson on Tuesday. It was her first appearance here and her first time in that role. She was transcendent. Cio-Cio-San's big number comes in act two. Un bel di vedremo is one of the most loved and most recognizable arias there is and Tillotson's rendition of it nailed it in every way. I don't have a video of her performance but here it is as sung by my favorite soprano, Angela Gheoghiu:

In the original Italian, Cio-Cio-San sings this:

Un bel dì, vedremo
levarsi un fil di fumo
sull'estremo confin del mare.
E poi la nave appare.
Poi la nave bianca
entra nel porto,
romba il suo saluto.
Vedi? È venuto!
Io non gli scendo incontro. Io no.
Mi metto là sul ciglio del colle e aspetto,
e aspetto gran tempo
e non mi pesa,
la lunga attesa.

E uscito dalla folla cittadina,
un uomo, un picciol punto
s'avvia per la collina.
Chi sarà? chi sarà?
E come sarà giunto
che dirà? che dirà?
Chiamerà Butterfly dalla lontana.
Io senza dar risposta
me ne starò nascosta
un po' per celia
e un po' per non morire
al primo incontro;
ed egli alquanto in pena
chiamerà, chiamerà:
"Piccina mogliettina,
olezzo di verbena"
i nomi che mi dava al suo venire.
(a Suzuki)
Tutto questo avverrà,
te lo prometto.
Tienti la tua paura,
io con sicura fede l'aspetto.

In English, it translates as:

One good day, we will see
Arising a strand of smoke
Over the far horizon on the sea
And then the ship appears
And then the ship is white
It enters into the port, it rumbles its salute.
Do you see it? He is coming!
I don't go down to meet him, not I.
I stay upon the edge of the hill
And I wait a long time
but I do not grow weary of the long wait.

And leaving from the crowded city,
A man, a little speck
Climbing the hill.
Who is it? Who is it?
And as he arrives
What will he say? What will he say?
He will call Butterfly from the distance
I without answering
Stay hidden
A little to tease him,
A little as to not die.
At the first meeting,
And then a little troubled
He will call, he will call
"Little one, dear wife
Blossom of orange"
The names he called me at his last coming.
All this will happen,
I promise you this
Hold back your fears -
I with secure faith wait for him.

I like it better in Italian. Hah!

Matthew Edwardsen's Pinkerton was almost, but not quite, as amazing as Tillotson's Cio-Cio-San. His moral conflicts were as palpable as his fragile ego. Part of him wanted to be the man who has the world at his feet and part of him actually loved his Japanese child bride. It's easy to make him the bad guy but all of the characters in Madama Butterfly are products of the times when they lived.

For all of the attention Un bel di vedremo gets, what always amazes me about Madama Butterfly is the segue between acts two and three. In Puccini's Italian, the piece is called Coro a bocca chiusa. In English, that means Chorus with mouths closed but it's better known as the Humming Chorus. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of music ever composed.

I'm really lucky to live in a community with an ironclad commitment to The Arts. I live in a small city yet we have two orchestras, and opera company and at least six professional theater companies. I can walk to any of our six performance spaces or our seven museums. In a state better know for its absurd politics and lap dances, I live in a cultural oasis. That's never a point lost on me. But our arts organizations are as threatened as anywhere else's.

In a time when arts funding is under siege and when companies as prominent as the Philadelphia Orchestra file for bankruptcy, arts organizations everywhere need your support like never before. It's easy to pretend the arts are an indulgence for the intellectual set but it's through the arts that western civ passes from generation to generation.

The arts, whether performing or visual, are what make us, us. They catalog and preserve our lives and our times, but more than that, they remind us of our place in the broad sweep of history. That I could see an opera the other night that premiered the year before my grandmother Stewart was born and that I could swoon and weep while hearing Un bel do vedremo the same way my great-great and great-grandparents would have connects me to them in ways nothing else can. That I can't look at a Mary Cassatt painting and not think of my sister Adele and that I can't see My Fair Lady and not think of my Dad are reason enough for me to know that the arts are important. Every time I hear Jeremiah Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary I see my Grandmother Anater. Every time I stand in front of a Degas or a Monet I wonder what my great-great-grandparents thought of Impressionism in its heyday. I live for the day to introduce my nieces and nephews to Hockney and Basquiat, Glass and Lindberg.

Arts organizations everywhere need you support. Do yourself a favor and go to a performance or go to a museum. Make it a priority and keep it a priority. Arts organizations with no support go way and they don't come back once they're gone.

14 June 2011

A visit with American Standard

As I mentioned here last week, American Standard had me in New York last week for  a day of product education and a tour of their research facility in nearby Piscataway. While there, American Standard put my fellow travelers JB Bartkowiak, Laurie Burke, Andie Day, Saxon Henry and Rich Holshuh in The Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District.

Photo via JB Bartkowiak

The Standard is the current center of the universe for all things hip and cool in Manhattan and it was fascinating to have a front row seat for all of it. Ordinarily, I'm an east side of Midtown guy and it was wild to see the worlds of fashion, art, music and money collide in the lobby of The Standard. It was fascinating surely, but I've never felt so old and irrelevant in my life. Hah! But man oh man, the view...

So my Wednesday last week was spent with the marketing and design folks at American Standard. I went into the whole experience with an open mind but I wasn't expecting to be wowed. I should have know better, there were industrial designers involved after all.

I love hearing the stories behind products and I love meeting the people who design the objects most of us take for granted. The amount of thought that goes into something as mundane as a toilet is inspiring frankly, and anybody who can figure out a way to re-engineer toilets and showers and faucets to use water more efficiently is OK in my book.

Any time I go on one of these sessions I'm always on the look out for that one break away innovation, that one thing that pushes an entire industry forward. I found a couple of them at American Standard but none of them comes close to what they're doing in their Outreach lavatory faucet.

At first glance, the Outreach looks like any other centerset lavatory faucet on the market. But if you look at it closely, notice the line at the bottom of the spout. This faucet does something utterly different.

It has a pull out, similar to what you'd expect from a kitchen faucet.

When I shave every morning I have a ritual where I splash water around my bathroom sink to get the shaving cream scum and beard crumblies down the drain. My ritual doesn't work very well and I probably use three times the amount of water I need to in order to clean my sink. A pull out sprayer would make sure of my (and every man's) morning dilemma. Great thinking American Standard.

And if an afternoon of innovation in Piscataway weren't enough, our whole crew went to dinner at Cookshop in Chelsea that night. Sitting a hair's breadth away was none other than Ron Howard. God I love New York. Thanks American Standard for getting me back there.

Photo via JB Bartkowiak

The number of reading glasses at that table speaks volumes about the median age of the typical design blogger. I love having peers!

13 June 2011

Caspani lets everybody pretend to be a gangster

Oh Lord. I gave a talk in New York last week about blogging and Twitter and I was making the point that being controversial isn't always a bad thing. Someone asked how to do that without offending a potential client or vendor and I responded that she should look for Italian furniture developed for the Russian market.

I hate to play to national stereotypes, but some of them fit. Almost to make my point for me, Italian manufacturer Caspani just released a collection of chairs they're calling the Regal Armchair Throne.

Again, oh Lord.

Do any of these things actually sell? Who would have such a thing in his or her home?

Again, I hate to play to national stereotypes but I'm going to pretend I'm German and just go with it. DirectTV's Gregor should have one of these.

09 June 2011

Buy this book!

The book is Kelly's Kitchen Sync and it was penned by my great friend Kelly Morisseau.

I've known Kelly for a couple of years and among all of the peers I've befriended in the last few years, Kelly's always stood out for her good-natured expertise. Kelly's one of a handful of pros I turn to when I need design advice and through this book, now anybody with a question will find an answer in Kelly's Kitchen Sync.

Kelly starts at square one and talks a reader through every decision that needs to be made over the course of renovating a kitchen. This is Kelly's introduction:
Ready to remodel your kitchen? Great! It sounds so easy -- buy a few cabinets, some appliances and perhaps even replace a worn counter. Then you discover the dishwasher handle blocks a drawer, the refrigerator door hits the cabinets and the dishwasher won't fit under the new counter.

Some of you may think you'll never run into this --after all, your kitchen is pretty simple without a lot of changes, right?

Here's the reality: designing the kitchen of today is like stacking dominoes. Every choice, every product and every finish you add to your kitchen impacts the design, simple or not. One piece can send the rest tumbling if not thought out --and there are a lot of pieces!

I'm not trying to scare you, but rather provide you with a bit of hope --with the help of this book, you'll sail past all this. You'll learn how to spot those errors --and many others-- long before you ever get to the installation stage.
Kelly then spends the next 18 chapters and 210 pages reviewing every detail an eager renovator will run into. She discusses the importance of each step of the process and to someone new to the renovation market could easily see this resource she's penned as the most thorough visit with a master designer they're likely to get.

Kelly talks about how much money you can expect to spend. She talks about how to interview a designer and a contractor. She talks about cabinetry of course, then goes on to dissect the vagaries of cooking appliances, ventilation and refrigeration. If you have a question and you'd like an answer from an unbiased source, your answer is probably within the covers of this book.

It's available now through Amazon and $20 spent today will save you a fortune down the road. Buy it!

As a personal aside, Kelly Morisseau is the first designer I ever started corresponding with. It's been a singular thrill to watch our little network of two grow into something that includes some of the biggest names in the industry. Eventually, we formed the Blogger 19 but that's grown into something more like the Blogger 75. The launch of Kelly's book is but one more achievement to celebrate from this amazing group of people I call friends and colleagues. Even though Kelly's now poised to become a world famous, best-selling author, she maintains the blog that started it all, Kelly's Kitchen Sync, and has a thriving Bay Area design practice.

07 June 2011

Guilty TV pleasures: a Blog Off post

Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "Guilty pleasures: what's your favorite show on TV?"


It's funny. I spent most of yesterday composing a lengthy, lengthy defense of my intellect that amounted to a rationalization of why I watch the guilty pleasure TV I do. I'll spare you my inner torment and just come clean. I am no stranger to trashy TV. I don't admit it very often but the whole point of this Blog Off topic was to act as a confessional.

So with that said I'll confess that I watch most of the shows the Bravo Network produces. And out of all of those programs the one that stands out for me, the true rose among the thorns of reality TV is the Real Housewives of New Jersey.

There. I just admitted that to the world. This is supposed to make me feel better but instead I just feel exposed. The Real Housewives of New Jersey has no redeeming qualities other than that it entertains me. It entertains me because it makes me think I'm sane when I compare my life to the horrors that play out in North Jersey every week. I watch it for no reason other than the thrill of schadenfreude.

Here are three clips that sum up the shenanigans of The Real Housewives of New Jersey perfectly.

From Season One:

From Season Two:

From Season Three:

And there you have it. I've either admitted my humanity or made myself look bad. I can't figure out which. In my own defense, I really do read The New Yorker...

As the day goes on, the rest of the participants in today's Blog Off will appear miraculously at the end of this post. Keep checking back and check out everybody's postss. You can follow along in Twitter as well, just look for the hashtag #LetsBlogOff. If you'd like more information about about the Blog Off or if you'd like to see the results of previous Blog Offs, you can find the main website here.

04 June 2011

A Saturday New York story

As I get ready for another trip to New York, something that's become almost a routine, my mind drifts back to a time not too long ago. Actually, it feels like a lifetime, but on a calendar it was only seven years ago.

I was about to turn 39 and I'd been a fervent promoter of a novel by Gregory Maguire called Wicked since the late '90s. If you were anywhere in my sphere back then, you'd have heard me hollering about that novel. I still holler about it if you catch me in a nostalgic moment.

Wicked is an achievement in American fiction and it remains an amazing read. If you've never read it, forget your preconceptions and pick up a copy. You'll never look at history the same way.

Anyhow, seven years ago somebody turned my beloved novel into a Broadway musical that was then struggling to keep the doors open. I was beyond intrigued by the idea of it and I hadn't been in New York in nearly 15 years. So to commemorate my 39th, my great friend Kevin Smith and I flew to New York for a weekend. We'd see the show, hang out with his friend Janine and spend a whole day running around New York.

Despite the juggernaut Wicked became eventually, Kevin and I saw it with its original cast in a half empty Gershwin Theater. We sat feet away in the fifth row of the orchestra when Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel sang this:

I remember sitting in that theater during that number and getting choked up because that song was about me and Kevin. It was more than me and Kevin of course. It was about everyone I've ever known but it stopped with Kevin Smith.

Kevin Smith is a dear, dear friend. His is best and most solid friendship I've ever formed in my life. When we were in New York that weekend we were also neighbors in St. Pete. Back in St. Pete, Kevin taught me more than I think he'll ever know. Among many other things, he taught me how to live a life without shame and he taught me how to laugh. Kevin's willingness to share a cup of coffee and fresh cinnamon rolls taught me how to be a neighbor. His legendary rice and beans taught me how to be welcome guest.

Through our various highs and lows he's always been there to bring me back to earth when I'm flying too high and he's always been around to catch me when I crash and burn. I'd never be in the position I am today without his constant challenges and encouragement. More than anybody else, Kevin equipped me for the things I have in front of me now.

In the last seven years, New York's become what I like to call my home away from home away from home and Kevin's moved on to greener pastures in New Orleans. But every time I find myself on Madison Avenue I find myself thinking about Kevin Smith and that weekend way back when and I thank him for the role he's played in my life.

 Kevin, not to be a cliche, but because I know you, I have been changed for the better and for good.

03 June 2011

Here's a re-cap of the work I have standing in the Houzz.com archives. I'll be adding to it soon now that things have calmed down a bit. If you're not a frequenter of Houzz.com you should be!

Back to New York

from Wikimedia Commons

Man oh man do I love this town.

You know it's funny, this is the sixth or seventh time I said "I'm going to New York" on this blog. Or is it the seventh or eighth? Who's counting?

Anyhow the K&RD show is going back on the road next week and I'll be in the City from Tuesday through Friday. This time, the great folks from American Standard are bringing me, Saxon Henry, Andie Day, Laurie Burke, JB Bartkowiak and Rich Holschuh together for a few days to learn about American Standard, Crane Plumbing, Jado | Porcher and Eljer products.

This is going to be a great week and I owe a great debt of thanks to American Standard's PR folks Nora DePalma, Wendy Silverstein and Jen Datka for making all of these arrangements.

I guess it's a function of having been around for a while but I know all of the bloggers who will be there so this will be as much a reunion for many of us as it will be an opportunity to get some product education. And what better place than New York? And by the way, they're putting us up at The Standard. Woo-hoo!

Everybody arrives on Tuesday and everybody involved will be live-Tweeting the action as it unfolds. If you're a Twitter-er, follow these people to keep up on the action as it unfolds.

Me @Paul_Anater
Saxon Henry @SaxonHenry and @adroyt
Andie Day @AndieDay
Laurie Burke @cabinetgal1
JB Bartkowiak @BuildingMoxie
Rich Holdshuh @ConcreteDetail and @adroyt
American Standard @amercanstandard
Professor Toilet @professortoilet
Nora DePalma @noradepalma
Wendy Silverstein @WSA_PR

02 June 2011

Am I the only one...

Who actually prefers seeds in his watermelon?

via Houstonist

Watermelon grows here locally and plentifully. It's available most of the year and I eat more than my share of it. Increasingly though, all I've been finding are the boring seedless ones.

I'll go out on a limb here and admit that I eat watermelon seeds. They add a shot of texture to watermelon that makes it watermelon in my mind. Beyond that, watermelon seeds actually taste good.

So is this a me and me alone thing?

01 June 2011

My shower? Why yes, it's a Speakman

Until a month ago, my shower life looked like this.


But in early May, the Speakman Company sent me this chrome beauty,

And now my shower life looks something more like this.


That's a bit of an exaggeration but not really.

My new shower head is Speakman's Neo, model S-3010, and I've enjoyed my test drive with it for the last couple of weeks so much that I'm going to keep it.

Speakman's Neo features five adjustable stream nozzles and 12 massage jets in a standard size, 2gpm shower head. At two gallons per minute, it's considered to be a low-flow fixture. Low-flow fixture used to be a kiss of death but Speakman's technology harnesses those two gallons for all they're worth. If I didn't know it were a low-flow head I'd never believe it.

My Neo has another Speakman innovation that I'm quite impressed with. Normally, a shower head has a series of flow settings that you click through one by one. All Speakman shower heads feature something called Anystream. Anystream is a 360 degree adjuster that allows the spray settings to flow into each other infinitely. This allows for a perfectly adjusted shower and because there are no locking parts, virtually assures a long life.

Add to all of that this shower resists sediment build up and clogs all by itself and I'm sold.

You can find Speakman shower products, faucets, valves, safety products and HVAC solutions at better dealers just about everywhere and you can also buy a Speakman Neo just like mine on their website.