Kevin Purdy

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2016 In Review

07 Jan 2017

What’s my excuse this time?

Why is my Year in Review for 2016 posted in early April 2017?

I wrote most of it in January. But some of the things I wrote about changed. I injured myself in weightlifting. Things got a little more complicated at the coworking space and the coworking-space-management-software-as-a-service thingy. The president of the U.S. started doing the things he said he would do. These things happening don’t affect what happened in 2016, but they changed how I view them, parse them.

That, and, after printing out this thing and reading it with a red pen in hand, I wanted to chuck it.

Still, here it is. A condensed, yet strangely verbose, collection of takes on Kevin Purdy’s 2016. Off we go.

Contents

Working for the New York Times

The Paper of Record1 purchased the company I work for in late 2016. That company was technically Submarine Leisure Club, which was always fun to explain to bank officers. Submarine Leisure Club was started by Brian Lam to launch The Wirecutter and The Sweethome. They bought us because they respect our work, and they are interested in our revenue model (affiliate revenue, with full disclosure and editorial integrity).

So far, not much about my actual job has changed. I still use things, rank things, argue about how I used and ranked those things, and make spreadsheets that seem unhinged. But if I step back, I’m working for the New York Times, and this is something that makes me very proud. It would have made my old man proud, no doubt.

When I was a fresh young reporter, every time I would visit home on, my dad would ask, “Why don’t you send your articles to the New York Times?” I used to think, like all children, that my dad just didn’t understand how it works now.

But now I think: You know, he read the Times every Sunday. He lived in this world. He knew what big cities and big corporations looked like. Maybe it wasn’t naïveté about careers. Maybe my dad just knew that none of us are going to live as long as we like, that people get hired because of all kinds of dumb coincidences, and it’s not worth living with that regret, that you didn’t take the shot you wanted to take.

I now have a pretty cool tote bag, and I get a free digital subscription. And I support, and have the backing of, a company trying to inform people of what’s going on in their world, however much of that information they’re willing to take.

Writing

Last year, I only wrote for a full-time employer, and a few times on this site. No freelance writing to speak of. Easy taxes, for certain. But maybe it’s now time to think about some side projects, since I’m scaling back other stuff (more on that in a bit).

What I wrote here:

CoworkBuffalo acquired a software service

2016 was the third year of CoworkBuffalo at its current Main Street location, and the fourth year of operation in Buffalo. I’m one of the co-owners. It’s the most quiet work I do (thank God), and easy to forget how weird and sometimes wonderful it is to be part of a business in downtown Buffalo.

We use Desktime to manage booking, payments, and subscriptions at CoworkBuffalo. It’s the best kind of software, because it’s just enough, and not too much. We have tried other services, and those we have tried are a slimy nightmare of checkboxes and upsells. We learned from the maker of Desktime that he was looking to focus on a new venture, Deskpass. We talked it over, looked at the code and financials and customers, and decided we would try to carry it.

Desktime will become Mx. Desk. I wrote a post about the naming process on the Mx. Desk Medium. In the meantime, Nick Q has made the code faster, more stable, more secure, and easier to watch and manage. I’ve written some words and answered as many support tickets as I can. It’s going … eerily, quietly well. If you have any interest in using or partnering with Mx. Desk, you should give us a shout.

TEDxBuffalo

The 2016 TEDxBuffalo event was the smoothest-running, most consistent event yet. The crowd reaction, including a standing ovation at the end, spoke to the effort that everyone involved puts into this weird thing. All of the talks spoke to me , and a few of them surprised me. That’s not easy, after 6 years of producing these events. A lot of new volunteers took part in this event, and I think they are the future of this thing. I’m handing over the license to this thing this year in 2017, and I feel pretty great about it.

Lifting

I busted my knee in 2015 and had arthroscopic surgery in January 2016. I kept running a bit, but nowhere near as much as before. I did a couple 5Ks, and a bit of interval training, but I always knew I was on borrowed time. I needed something else. Something to absorb my unnecessary impulses for efficiency and improvement. Something where I can see the numbers move in the right direction.

I spent a bit more time learning how my (1984) road bike worked, and rode it whenever I could. But long-distance cycling didn’t hold much appeal: Expensive, rarefied, requires a lot of gear. I still hit a spinning class every so often, but too much and my knee acts up. That, or I start hearing Lana Del Rey dance remixes when I’m walking around. Swimming would require I learn how to actually swim. And it’s not my favorite thing, having my head underwater. Anything involving coordination with a puck or a ball or the like, and having to play with other people, is generally out of the question.

I wanted something I could do at home, or wherever I happened to be―like running. I read some article about doing 100 push-ups, installed an Android app, and somehow stuck with it. Then I started tagging along with my wife to her mixed-martial-arts-style training class. Next was a pull-up challenge, then dips. I felt better, all-around, like I had felt when I was training for a big run. Then, despite everything I thought about such people in high school, I thought about lifting weights.

I quickly discovered that what I was looking for was not bodybuilding―oh, God, those forums. One of my coworkers writes a column for The Hairpin, Ask A Swole Woman. It’s hard to understate how useful something is that’s not written with a shitty attitude about health and not pitched toward spending money on things. I somehow came across Scooby’s Workshop, which, yeah, it’s a dude with an odd voice and who’s shirtless all the damned time while talking to a camera, but it’s also really sensible about what you can expect and how to get going. I ended up sticking to a StrongLifts 5x5 program, with regular check-ins with a trainer and Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength to make sure I’m not endangering my back.

(Update: I did totally injure my lower back in early 2017, because I had flawed squat form and didn’t take off enough weight after coming back from a week away. But exercise is not about avoiding injury, but how you recover from it.)

You might say strength training is simple: Lift heavy things, a bit heavier than the last time, then take a day off. But you only get to say that if you’re lucky enough to have never been injured, or just too young to care about your long-term health, or your back. Your body will do all sorts of things to cope with a relatively heavy weight, and some of those things are really stupid things to do unless you’re trapped under a boulder. As I write this (Note: In early March 2017) I’m still recovering from something I did wrong during a bench press. Bench press seems like a simple exercise, unless something in your grip causes an imbalance, and then ruh-roh. All I can do is wait and try to be better next time. I’m good with that.

One year of Twitter

I posted too many tweets in 2016, breaking the most important rule of Twitter over and over again. Most were dross. A few seemed to make people smile, or think, or something like that.

(Written during a Google I/O keynote, as the company announced Yet Another Messaging Platform)

In Pod Form

Phil Dzikiy and I recorded six episodes of In Pod Form in 2016, our first since 2014. It is a podcast that is, indeed, two white dudes talkin’. It is an excuse I need to talk to a friend who now lives far away. I’m not doing a very good job of being game for a new episode, but I intend to get back to it.

Games

On PC, on my phone, and, more recently, on XBOX 360, I played these games in 2016:

The new president

Maybe this is reflective of how much I think about my own health lately. Or maybe I’m just simple-minded. But I agree with Jay Rosen that our newest president is not a “master of media,” he just has an absolute lack of shame. My example is pretty simple, maybe base. But I have to record it here, because one day I might forget what this time was like. The time when we had to deal with a user who exploited all of the bugs in our system at once.

When the president was still running for the office, he had his doctor write a letter in five minutes declaring that he, the eventual nominee of the Republican party, would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

This guy.

Donald Trump during his Dr. Oz ... whatever that was

Healthier than everyone, including this guy.

Barack Obama playing golf

We even have the two side by side. Quick: pick one for your relay team.

These are two men who were and will be president

Remember when George W. Bush caught Hell for having bruises and scrapes after a mountain-biking accident? Just asking.

You and I, dear reader, both know we are not the healthiest people ever to do anything. We know our bodies. We have failures, moments, wishes, flaws, pains we can’t forget. And we don’t say that we are “the healthiest ever” because we know that, if someone were to question us or admonish us for saying this later, we would feel lesser in their eyes. Were word of our claims to spread further, we might even feel lesser in the eyes of our community. Neither you nor I would think, “At least they’re talking about me!”

You got it from here. This is far from the most important insight into this man. I haven’t “figured him out.” But this one thing feels like a pinhole through which I might view the big, gaseous, pale orange sun.

All you can do

If 2015 was the year of the 2/5 Life Crisis, then 2016 was … another year of dealing with it. Specifically, this part, again, and again:

The fearful, reactive part of my brain was telling me, constantly, that I was not a Good Writer, based on the edits and notes I would get back (even though everybody gets edits and notes). That would be okay if I was a Serious Journalist, but I wasn’t that, either, because I could not get started on this article I’d had in my head for years. I was not a Good Homeowner, because, God, just look at my old house getting older, and imagine what my neighbors think of me. I was not a Fast Runner, a Responsible Money-Saver, a Decent Parent, a Social Work Hero.

Just because someone writes a blog post about something, does not mean they have worked through it. Oh, mercy, no.

One day in autumn of last year, I was riding a positive mental wave. I told my therapist that I had come to terms with my place in the world. I said that I understood that the world, the universe, are so vast that there is no way everybody can be perfectly acknowledged and fulfilled, even for 15 minutes, even for .025 seconds. Whatever I thought I should be doing, whatever I thought was my legacy, it didn’t matter. All you can do is work on what’s in front of you, and sometimes step back and consider what it’s building toward. For some people, there’s no time for that last part, and it would be good to be grateful for it.

One day in late January 2017, I was unbalanced by work and lots of negative thought. I loaded up a 5-minute guided meditation on my phone. I went into a phone-call room at my coworking space. I listened to a man with a British accent speak in my headphones. He walked me through deep breaths and centering thought. The man asked me to think about myself as a child, and to think about what that child wanted to be when he grew up. I fought very, very hard not to cry in a phone room. I had quite a few moments like that in 2016, and again this year.

The root cause of these existential panic attacks? I think I might be hung up on trying to build a “body of work.” I spend a great deal of effort trying to build Things. Work product, serious articles, little businesses, events, networks, even parts of my home. But all of these things will cease to exist some day. Before they cease to exist, they will cease to matter to hardly anyone.2

What will matter, and what will quietly outlast those Things, are actions. Who you are, and what you’re capable of, for other people and for yourself, are your long-term project. I have to try to remember that every day is building something, even if I can’t really believe it. When the sun dies out, and everything we’ve done on Earth starts to crumble, this post won’t matter, nor will anything I wrote or coded. On the cosmic balance sheet, it has to matter more that I helped other people when I could, was honest at many moments, walked my dog, had lunches with old friends, sometimes did the thing that was hard because it was a good thing for others.

Anyways.

Pictures of my pets

Howard:

Howard

Cork:

Cork (Photo by Kimber Streams)

Apricot:

Apricot

–30–

  1. Paper! Ha. But you can see why this nickname/honorary has stuck around. “The news outlet of record?” “The content provider of record?” “The influencer engagement platform of record?” I’ll see myself out. 

  2. I don’t have children. Even if I did, I know how often kids actually go into the attic to read through their parents’ things. It’s humbling.