Open letter to my niece

My sister's baby was due July 31, but has decided to make everybody wait. She and her husband have started a private Facebook group for family and close friends to come together around the impending birth. I posted this letter the other day, and a lot of people have said they're moved by it, so I thought I'd share with everybody.

Note that they are using the nickname "Kishkah." It makes sense for us Jews. The rest of you can Google it. Enjoy.

Dearest Kishkah,

I know where you are is warm, and food comes whenever you want it, without effort. I also know that change is scary, that New England is getting ready to enter its cold season, and that trying to get attention for food is not a happy prospect.

But there are some things you should understand.

The world you are entering is amazing. There are trees and flowers and big metal boxes that move people around at remarkable speeds. There are love and heartache.

There are smells and tastes — refueling your body in this world is so much more wondrous than getting nutrients through a cord.

The planet you will inherit is in need of some help, to be sure, but we are currently adding one day to the human life span every two months; by the time you can vote, we'll be closer to adding a day to the life span every day or two. You'll be a member of the first generation that could potentially live indefinitely, and I have no doubt you and your cohort will use your lives for good, to help each other and the world as necessary.

It sounds like a big responsibility, but understand that you'll have help. Your parents will be your first line of help, but there are hundreds of hands right behind them. In no time, you'll be able to communicate with them and with others you will introduce into the group. And soon after that, it will be your turn to run the show — a much bigger show than the one you're running now, which is composed of merely a single choice: to stay in the comfort you feel now, or to take a bold step into the world.

I hope you'll choose the second. We'll see you soon.

Love,
Uncle Josh

Date night Savannah: Bar Food, CO, river, Bohemian and Leopold’s

We set out for a networking event last week, and found it was canceled. Woo! A reason to go out and try new places!

2015-06-18 18.00.06We'd been meaning to get to Bar Food for a while, but it's in a part of town we don't go to a lot, but it was right around the corner from our canceled event, so we went, had a beer and a snack. They have a solid selection of craft brews and the other usuals. I had a Two Boots, while Jenny had a cider. We shared a cheese board, which came with some toast, four cheeses, local honey, some pickles and strawberries. Great way to start the evening. The menu looked really good; the crowd was interesting — it's a contemporary, kind of hipster place, but the crowd leaned not exactly biker, but not exactly not biker.

We then headed downtown to another place that was on my list, CO, which recently opened in Savannah after having restaurants in Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Our server, Grace, soft-sold us some cucumber mojitos, which were light and refreshing on a 103-degree day. We had summer rolls and gyoza (pork dumplings) as appetizers — both delicious — and Jenny ordered some pad thai while I had a tiger roll, which their menu describes as "shrimp, surimi salad, cucumber, yamagobo, avocado, unagi sauce, spicy aioli." We were both very pleased with the meals, and with the overall atmosphere. We sat at the sushi bar, but there's also a bar in the front, some booths in the back, a couple of high tops and some long tables should you decide you might want to meet a couple of people. The electronic dance music was quiet and suited the space well. We'll be back, though we're worried this will become a hot spot and we won't be able to get a seat next time.

A photo posted by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

Left, from top: Pork gyoza, cucumber mojito, summer roll. Right, from top: Pad thai with chicken and shrimp, tiger roll

With quite full bellies, we wandered on down to the river to sit for a bit. If you're ever wondering why we might have moved here, it's because we can park, walk and have this view about 330 nights a year.

2015-06-18 20.08.02-1

We finally decided after almost an hour to get up and visit a bar we'd gone to once and found it too crowded (at 10:00 on a Friday night). Rocks on the Roof at the Bohemian Hotel. The rooftop is open on two sides, one overlooking the Savannah River, and one overlooking the crowds on Bay Street and Founders Walk. We sat on the river side on a sofa and sipped a gin and tonic, and met a recently engaged couple. The electronic dance music seemed a little loud out of place for a space that's reminiscent of more of a jazz cocktail lounge, but it's still a cool spot.

Cute, happy and on a rooftop. #visitsavannah #savannah #datenight

A photo posted by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

2015-06-18 21.47.03-1Our last stop for the night was, of course, at Leopold's. If you're new to the area or just visiting and the line out the door has turned you off, don't sweat it. The bend in the line at the curb is about a seven-minute wait, the ice cream is homemade and the soda fountain is basically the same as it was in 1930-whatever. I love the butter pecan ice cream, but pictured here is a dish of chocolate chewies and cream and a hot fudge sundae, which are both also delicious. They even have seasonal flavors; the Japanese cherry blossom is light and creamy and wonderful.

And apparently they also make good soups and such, but for now, we're happy working our way through the ice cream menu.

Where should we go next, Savannah?

In defense of silly

Stop taking yourself so seriously. Every now and then, you have to just let yourself go.

2015-03-15 07.08.30A few weeks ago I did a 5k. It went fine. It's been a tumultuous six months, and I'd only just recently had the opportunity to start getting back into a running and general fitness routine. It went better than fine, really; I figured I'd come in at 38 minutes or so, and then I added in a costume and a Camelbak full of water, so maybe closer to 42 minutes. But it was 36 minutes, even all decked out.

Oh, and all decked out I was! Check out that photo! Green* fu manchu! Giant glass of green beer on my head! Suspenders! Shamrock shades!

To some extent, I think I'd become grumpy old guy. Maybe it was the severe Syracuse skies as winter approached again. Maybe it was working nights. I don't know. But I'd been taking myself way too seriously for a while.

Given the new setting, and the fact that I knew pretty much no one, I figured I'd go a little nuts. And it felt good to get high-fived and have strangers ask for photos. No need of deep conversation, no judgment, just a bit of old-fashioned silliness.

See the team photo at the previous post.


*The green "dye" was green food coloring and an aloe lotion. It came right out of my beard, off my hands, off the shirt and out of the dish. Use an aloe gel instead; it'll probably actually dry and set, which this never did.

How to publish an ebook on Amazon

Something I did recently was this. I compiled some of my blog posts, edited them a bit, and put them together in an ebook to sell on Amazon. It's called Resolutions for the Rest of the Year, and is meant to give you the tools to set and accomplish goals now that most people have given up their New Year's resolution.

Almost as important to me as putting the book together (it's short; go ahead and give it a shot, why not?) was the process. Let me tell you how I did it, so that you can do it, too.

First, I redeemed a coupon I had for Scrivener, an amazing $40 piece of software (that's without the coupon). It makes it really easy to organize a book, and will help you compile it for pretty much any format — Kindle, iBooks, hard cover, soft cover, PDF — and provides you with a bunch of tools for proofing and organizing research and putting together keywords to embed in electronic versions.

Next, because it's such a complete piece of software, I took advantage of a special on a Udemy course on Scrivener (at this writing there's not a special, but almost 20 hours, it's still a deal at $169 for Mac or Windows).

Then I put the actual product together. If you're going to try this, be honest with your self and understand that the software's easy enough to learn, putting the product together is the hardest work.

I did some searching for royalty-free art to turn into a cover (feel free to pay for some, too), put the cover together, spelled a word wrong, went back and did the cover again, and thanked my eyes for catching that.

Next, I signed up for Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon's Kindle publishing platform. It's a fairly simple process (it took about 15 minutes) to upload the book and cover, add some keywords, price it, confirm that I own the copyright on the book and click the submit button (which is the scariest part, but that was the goal of the whole project — pressing that submit button).

I sent that on a lunch break, about 2 a.m., and by the time I woke up about 10 a.m., I had a book on Amazon.

Your turn. Go!

Find your relax

beach

It's been 32 days since we pulled out of New York and 14 days since I felt like a passed-out cat. We've learned a bit about our new city, some about our neighborhood, and it took us 10 days to figure out all our utilities, the last of which was the garbage, which has been piling up a bit.

The landlord told us she'd notify the HOA when she got our paperwork. The paperwork is at the listing agent's. The listing agent's firm doesn't handle anything outside of the paperwork. The neighbors we've met largely take their trash to work, where they have dumpsters.

The listing agent then told us to call the people who handle our water – they would handle our trash, unless they didn't.

They don't.

The other day, I saw some barrels out, and they were stamped with the name Savannah Waste and a phone number.

Turns out they're a small, locally owned private hauler, and that the city (who handles our water) doesn't go beyond a certain point. Our first recycling load will be picked up sometime today; we can finally get rid of some trash on Monday.

On top of that, we've now had stuff like furniture and boxes full of our belongings for three days. So, we're unpacking on top of everything else.

We're both working full time, too.

feetWe're also figuring out where to find some relaxation, and one of those places, it turns out, is Tybee Island, a half hour drive away, with restaurants and beaches and restaurants and beaches.

It's exactly what you'd expect from a beach community. Really expensive housing with the occasional tiny bungalow or trailer park thrown in. Nice restaurants that look shabby because the salt air has messed with the paint and the wood.

We took two hours at brunch on Sunday, then walked over to the beach, where we hung out for another couple of hours. The water was chilly, and I guess the air was too cold for the locals; it was really sparse out there.

But it was beautiful, and relaxing, and even though I had a tough night ahead at work (busy and short-staffed), everything felt right.

Onward we march, until we bury our feet in the sand.

Rest, recover


This is how I feel today. [credit]

Those of you who know me personally know it has been a wild-n-crazy month for the Shear family.

On the night of Nov. 4, tenants signed a lease on our house in Central New York under the condition that they could take possession at 4 a.m. on Nov. 17, which means we had to be out Nov 16. That means we had to pack up and clean a house, plan movers and find a place to go in 11 days (they signed after 8 p.m. and we were going to have leave early on the 16th, so we didn't even get that 12th day).

We got a 24-foot rental truck and a trailer for one of our cars. I drove the truck, Jenny drove my minivan behind. We pulled out at 11 a.m. on the 16th, drove to a hotel in Harrisburg, Pa., that night, where I worked a full shift, met some folks from work in the morning (we all work from our various residences, so it's always cool when we get to meet each other), and then hit the road again for a 10-hour drive to Charlotte. The next day, we pulled into my parents' place in CHarleston, S.C., and promptly collapsed before waking up and heading to Savannah to unload all our stuff into a storage unit.

That was Nov. 19, and the next day, we rested.

On Nov. 21, we began our search for housing, keeping in mind we had a 2-hour commute each way from Charleston and I had to be at work at 6 p.m. We made the trip six times in eight days leading up to Thanksgiving.

On Monday of this week (Dec. 1), we signed a lease on a house in the Georgetown section of Savannah. On Tuesday, the electricity went on and yesterday they turned on the water. We're hoping to only have to take another trip or two down before we won't have to return to Charleston except to visit.

We're blessed and grateful to have the kind of family that says, "Hey, you need to take over a small room in the house for a few weeks? Go ahead!" We're also really happy to be able to settle into our own space and start putting the house back together soon.

But today, we rest. It's really important, actually. Your body wasn't meant to go hard 16-20 hours a day for weeks on end. It was designed to do some work, recover, do more work, recover, do some more work, and recover.

Over the next couple of months, as we get embedded into a new community and, let's face it, a new culture, expect there to be some community-building posts and some stuff I discover about the city, which has a very interesting history.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all

As I noted last week, we're in the deep South. Charleston, South Carolina, right now, to be exact, where we're staying with my parents while we apartment hunt a couple of hours away in Savannah, Georgia.

I can't really list everything or everyone I'm thankful for. That seems too obvious a Thanksgiving post, anyway.

Though one thing for sure I'm grateful for is the ability to do this once in a while:

2014-11-20 10.51.37

I know not everybody can relax and take some downtime. And even though I'm working today, I'm doing so barefoot, seated in a chair with ample coffee, clean water, and a family creating tumult while making a large meal that we'll probably eat for three days. Maybe five. We're used to doing this for 22 people, but there are only five of us.

That seems like a lot to be thankful for.

I guess what I'd really like to do is say, hey, look around you. I don't care how badly you think you have it, if you have a way to be reading some guy's post on the Internet, how lucky are you? Find some gratitude.

Not goodbye, see you later: A note to Syracuse

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By the miracle of WordPress scheduling, as this writing publishes, I'm spending my birthday unloading a giant truck into a storage unit in Savannah, Georgia.

Many of our friends know we've been eyeing Savannah for a long time. We expected we'd be down here sooner, and we expected we'd have more time to say our goodbyes.

Our house didn't sell, but we got a lot of rental interest from a Craigslist ad. And the couple who wanted to rent from us had to be out of their house in Kentucky on Nov. 13. That was too quick for us, but we signed the lease Nov. 4 and told them we'd be out the door by Nov. 17.

In the world of packing up a house, reserving a truck, getting a driving route, booking hotels and still figuring out where I'm going to be able to work, since they need me, too, this is not a very long time. It's barely even enough time. In fact, we're unloading into a storage unit because we had to be out of the house before we were able to scout out places to live.


I came to Syracuse in 2003. While I had some built-in connections in my grad program, it was a very specific group of people and we had a lot of work to do. There was very little socializing, and no one knew anything about the city.

So I went out and I found communities. One person I befriended, who eventually left town, had grown up in Syracuse and thought there was nothing to do.

As a gay black man, maybe that was true until he was an adult in mainstream society. Until I walked into his cafe, he didn't know there were brewpubs in town. He had never sat in the bleachers at a Chiefs game.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to show the lifers what's going on.

I got involved in a lot of stuff. A poetry reading, 40 Below, CNY SPaRC, the Future Fund, Alchemical Nursery, SyracuseFirst, some recreational sports leagues. Probably a few other things I'm missing. Someone nominated me for and I won a 40 Under 40 award.

I've made a lot of friends, who are all very much my local family, with my blood relatives scattered throughout Massachusetts, South Carolina and Texas, and wherever else all the distant cousins went.

I became a Freemason in Central New York, something which has provided me with some amazing friends as well as a sense of focus and purpose I didn't have before.

Central New York and I have given each other 11 years. It's hard to say how much of each other we've taken, though I am removing with me my lovely wife, so either way I'm the winner there.

Her family is all in the Syracuse area, so we will, surely, be back several times a year. It's not goodbye, just see you later.


What's in Savannah? We don't know, really. We've met some people already. We've seen the city; it's lovely. Palm trees, live oaks, beaches. People who are generous, friendly and still somewhat guarded about themselves and their city, but welcoming anyway.

There are lots of people our age starting things, there's an art and design school, there's a TEDx contingent. There's a tech movement and a maker movement. There are lots and lots and lots of parks.

We're hedging our bets a little, going down to rent, figuring if we end up not liking it, it'll be easy enough to pack up and move on without dealing with trying to sell another house. And we're already done with the wedding, so planning that is off our plates, too.

I'm sure over the next month or two there will be a lot of posts in this space, some of them dealing with culture shock, some of them dealing with things we've discovered. Maybe some photo essays.

Here's to new starts.

Introducing The Bearded Brain

in-the-earsYou may have seen me, over the past couple of weeks, posting on social media about The Bearded Brain, a new email newsletter I've put together.

Just a little bit about it: It's a collection of some interesting stuff I've seen, listened to, and, sometimes, discussed with friends throughout the week.

It's free, it's weekly (I send it on Tuesday), and I think you'll find it interesting.

You can see an issue here, so you know what to expect.

It's off to a good start, and I'd appreciate you trying it out for a couple of issues. I use a third party tool, so you can do your subscribing through them, and later unsubscribe with them if you wish, so there's no awkward, "Uh, Josh, I think I'm good" moment if you don't like it.

You can sign up here.

Thanks for checking it out!

End-of-summer to Thanksgiving challenge: Week 2

I thought I was actually going to put on a couple of pounds this week. I've been having some major food issues — notably not eating enough calories during the day, then back-loading on high-sugar foods at midnight or later to catch up.

2014-weight-loss-002But I listened to Steve Austin's podcast (auto-plays, NSFW), and someone asked about his diet, since he's trying to lean out for some upcoming TV shows. He's eating a lot of protein (350g) and calories (over 3,000), which is way more than I need, but he's also filling some of his meals out with oatmeal and potatoes and rice.

So I picked up some of those dense starches to take the place of things like, oh, peanut butter cups and cookies. And even in just a couple of days, it worked wonders. So, that's going to be part of the plan for the fall, I think. Not whole meals of piles of rice, of course, but a couple of fistfuls of oatmeal in my protein shake in the morning means it will stick a little longer. In fact, the first time I did it, it was 30g of whey protein, a banana, a serving of peanut butter and a little bit of oatmeal, and I had enough fuel for a three-mile run three hours after I drank it, on what was supposed to be a rest day (I just had some energy I needed to get out).

Anyway. It was also a pushups and pull-ups day. My two-minute max pushups was up almost 15%; my pull-ups increased twice that.

Here's the updated tracker sheet.

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 161.6 10.03 N/A N/A
9/8/2014 160.2 13.41 72 30
9/15/2014 N/A N/A
9/22/2014
9/29/2014 N/A N/A
10/6/2014
10/13/2014 N/A N/A
10/20/2014
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014