Mission Complete

It started with the New Hampshire Compulsion. I’ve spent the past few years chewing over this challenge like a dog gnaws on a bone.

Given enough time, sometimes the dog finishes the bone.

The New Hampshire Compulsion was a long bet I made with my buddy Todd. We had ten years to finish in the top 10% in the Crossfit Open (for me) or complete a lifetime 50 marathons (for him). The Crossfit Open rolls around once per year and consists of 5 or 6 workouts. Everybody submits their scores online and there’s a global leaderboard so you can see where you stand. I’m in the 45-49 year-old age bracket. Five years ago there were 1,600 people doing the competition at this age. This year there were over 13,000 men in this age group.

Got ‘er done.

2017.1: The year started with ups and downs. The first try was disappointing, and exhausting. The worst part was burpee box jumps–throw yourself on your chest then stand up and jump over a 24″ tall box. These favor lightweight, explodey types, which I’m not. I didn’t finish the first time, finished but miscounted my reps the second time. The third try was finally solid, and valid. I was very happy to do great on third try. Improved from 79th percentile to almost 94th.

Getting pumped up for the first workout

2017.2 Every year there is a workout that includes muscle ups. This movement also favors lightweight, explodey types. Fortunately, this workout was structured so you could do considerable work before getting to my sticky wicket. For the first time ever (EVER!), I successfully made muscle ups in practice, but they never showed up in my two tries at this. All the practice and failures left me with bruised ribs that didn’t go away until the final week.

98% there for the 40th time

2017.3 This was a complex, technical movement (squat snatches) that I’ve never felt good at. But it played to literal strengths. I got through the first two parts of the workout with one second to spare, putting me in the 94th percentile. Zach and I then put in lots of practice to try again. The second try started great but then I became stuck in glue.

Can I get a golf clap?

2017.4 A long grind of a workout that I only tried once. Slow on the row but disciplined on the HSPU. When they went away they were gone. Final results put me at 94th percentile.

This part… horrible.

2017.5 Finally, right in my wheelhouse! This last workout relies on strength and persistence. All the characteristics of a turtle. I did a little better than 98th percentile on this.

Gonna crush it

Here are a few things I learned in this 4 year journey.

The power of a rising tide: Experience and practice matters. Todd has seen a similar change in his portion of the compulsion. What once was a big challenge (running a marathon, finishing in the top 90%) becomes routine. What makes it routine isn’t always fitness but experience. Your legs know the right pace; everything you’ve done you’ve done 5000x before. It’s a help.
You’re defined by your weaknesses: In the open, one big fail can eliminate you. I almost eliminated one of them this year but still got a little lucky that the workout gave me movements before my waterloo so my score ended up decently strong.
Going new places is fun: I did two things (squat snatches and bar muscle ups) this year that I’ve never accomplished or mastered before. Both of them are immensely satisfying when you get them right and neither are as hard as they look. They’re like a golf swing; 11 things have to happen in just the right order in a quarter second and the result can be enjoyable.

So, where to next?
Who knows, I’m just going to enjoy the celebratory videos for now.

Smells Like Team Spirit

You can’t be married for 21 years without knowing your partner pretty well, but you can still learn new things. We’ve been spending a few days at Universal Orlando and I’ve realized Ginnie’s spirit animal is spirit itself.

Shortly after we checked in at Universal’s Cabana Bay, we were hanging out in the lobby and saw Lucy Ricardo. Perky, sassy, wisecracking Lucy Ricardo. Ginnie’s mouth immediately qwirked to her “porkchops and applesauce” grin and her energy level powered through the roof. Did she have to meet Lucy Ricardo? Hoo boy, she had to show Lucy who was perkier, sassier, wisecrackier. Pictures ensued.

Showdown

Showdown

Day two; she and Zoe met a couple who told them how to be part of Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras parade. You had to wait at a secret bench two hours before the parade started and you could be in the parade. Not just in the parade, but on a float tossing out beads to a pumped up crowd. You could be a literal team spirit dispenser.

Adoring fan

Adoring fan

Did this appeal? Hoo boy. She and our perky, sassy, redhead headed out early to shiver on a bench waiting for their chance at stardom. Reports came in. They were on a float wearing purple robes. The float featured a giant fire-breathing bird. Can’t miss it, except for the fact that the rest of the floats were equally crazy.

Behind the scenes, waiting for the parade to start

Behind the scenes, waiting for the parade to start

The rest of us barely made it to the show, but most importantly we did make it. The energy level was high. Glitter soared and beads flew. At last we saw the float. It showcased a maniacally cackling redhead Monkey (introvert #winning because the show was all atmosphere, she had something to do and people weren’t directly focused on her). And Ginnie, spirit glowing, happily hucking beads at the dispossessed and spirit-less.

Red distributes joy.

Red distributes joy.

Huckin' it

Huckin’ it to the back row

Williams 25th – The Permanent Record

Williams asked me to write a 25th anniversary summary of what I’ve been up to. Since this is the Gemignani permanent record, here it is. Names have been changed, because we are spies.

I had the extreme good fortune to meet Ginnie, my wife, partner and love shortly after graduation. We bonded over a blind date ballroom dancing (though not with each other), a shared love of L.A Story, snark and tackles.

Twelve years ago, I cofounded Juice Analytics with my brother Zach (erhm, Uncle Z). We’ve seen ups and downs and ups (and…). It’s been a great partnership. I’ve gradually transformed into a software developer, or even an engineer on my best days. I love building community, sharing my days with talented and dedicated folks, and honest laughter. Years at big companies (mostly Citibank) left me with more political weasel than I’d like.

Three beautiful, funny and quirky children share our nest. “Monkey” was born in 2002, “Buster” in 2004 and “Yessa” (She’s a girl!) in 2006. They’re now an age where their tongues are as sharp as rapiers, their memories like elephants, but their bodies still occasionally as snuggly as church mice. We homeschool and that’s allowed us freedom to travel. Last year included 7 weeks in Italy. One word, Sicily.

Ginnie and I ping-ponged from St Louis, Missouri; West Lafayette, Indiana (Ginnie’s move); Newark, Delaware (my move); Des Moines, Iowa (Ginnie’s move and where all three kids were born); Reston, Virginia (my move). Today we’re in Nashville, which feels like home. We’ve loved and buried four pets, found Crossfit and Unitarian Universalism. We’ve happily gone our own way, a small tribe of quiet half-rebels.

My time at Williams was sweet. In this open, internet world, I don’t know what Williams my children will find. Change comes and we try to meet it with an open heart.

Graduation with Sarah, Ellen, and Pete.

Graduation with Sarah, Ellen, and Pete.

Our family this year in Vinalhaven, ME

Our family this year in Vinalhaven, ME

Ladyfriends.

Ladyfriends.

Our wedding in 1995 with the Williams Crew.

Our wedding in 1995 with the Williams Crew.

Little Mother’s Mother’s Day – 2016

Pulling together the pictures for L.M.’s slide show was an adventure in touring the world, our various homes, and everyone’s many haircuts over the years. L.M. has an ability to bring fun and action to each day. She’s gives selflessly to our children, both by sharing her hobbies and experience, and by being willing to dive into their interests and hobbies to learn about them.

When I see pictures of her wearing a tiara, playing video games, and having a pedicure, that shows how incredibly devoted she is to her grands.

Happy Mother’s Day, L.M. We love you and your spirit.

Babs’ Mother’s Day – 2016

To tell you what I love best about my mom would take a very long time. And it would go back to the very beginning of my memories, the countless shared moments frozen in my mind of the two of us, laughing, crying, being together. My mother has the most generous of spirits; giving me the very best of herself, both through my genes, but also in the day-to-day. She’s loving and naive and kind and an easy laugher. She’s loved Buds from the first time she met him, and she loves her children and grandchildren without boundaries and without judgement.

To sum up, we’d be happy to have her live with us so we could see her all the time; that says it all.

Happy Mother’s Day, Babs. We love you.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg, our oldest cat, queen of our house, died last night in her sleep. She was almost 21 years old and had seen and passed judgement on many things.

One of the first things Jennie and I did together was adopt this pair of rambunctious siblings, Nutmeg and Chance, to join our small hungry cocker spaniel Brandie. They came home in a cardboard box striking the lid with excitement like tiny sharks.

Chance was sweet and Nutmeg was confident. She would fetch crumpled paper balls that we threw; not with the throw it, throw it now! intensity of a dog, but with a sleek grace. She would pad back to us and return the missing prey.

In later years, fetching involved selecting random things from a far corner of the house (a sock, a toy, a slipper) and bringing them to the top of the stairs or the hallway. Why these things? Oh human, it is not for you to know such things.

I see echoes of Nutmeg and Chance in our two new adoptee cats. Waffles, male, black, clueless, prone to fits where he NEEDS love and your human touch. He will get that touch; you can not stop him. Moonstar: the huntress, aloof, aware and graceful.

A link to our past is broken; all the pets of our early years have lived, loved, and passed on.

Nutmeg in Virginia

Nutmeg in Virginia

She loved running water and would stare pointedly at faucets until she got some

She loved running water and would stare pointedly at faucets until she got some

Snuggled

Snuggled

More Nashville days

More Nashville days

Looking at you, kid.

Looking at you, kid.

Enjoying the sunshine in Nashville

Enjoying the sunshine in Nashville

Siblings snuggled

Siblings snuggled

Young Nutmeg fights off a furrocious Brandie

Young Nutmeg fights off a furrocious Brandie

More new pets

We’ve added to the family again and let me say the new kid is a bit of a mouser.

Puffball rats we've caught in the basement.

Puffball rats we’ve caught in the basement.

Here are some of the puffball rats he’s found in the basement. We throw them outside to decompose. Yessa picked a name for him too; it’s “Cinderfella Grumpy”.

Our new hero, "Cinderfella Grumpy"

Our new hero, “Cinderfella Grumpy”

He likes to sleep nestled up to this little black bar he came with. We’ve named it “Grumpy Kingdom”. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure he’s a cat. With all the chirps and cheeps he makes, he might be some sort of bird.

What’s for dinner? HelloFresh vs BlueApron vs Fresh20

“What do you want to eat?”
“I dunno.”

That’s a typical conversation at our house. We’re not formal dinner folks and generally just graze and assemble our evening meals like a pair of raccoons (“trash pandas”).

We’ve tried HelloFresh and Blue Apron, two services that ship you food recently and want to share our impressions. There’s more about our initial experience with HelloFresh here.

What do you you get and what does it cost?

Both companies offer similar deals. Set your order for a family of four or a couple of two. Pick three out of six meals offered on their site. On a chosen day, a medium size, impressively insulated box shows up at your house. Pray it stays cold. Unpack it directly into your fridge. Pay somewhere between $8-10 per serving. Cook it yourself using recipe cards included in the box. Both offer a week or two free as an intro.

Both are a good alternative to eating out, offer healthy meals, and are a fun activity for trash pandas and young trash pandas.

Blue Apron

A Blue Apron recipe card.

A Blue Apron recipe card.

Pros

  • Nice protein, particularly fish (our sister-in-law, who’s forgotten more about seafood than we’ll ever know, swears you can’t find anything as good locally)
  • Recycling. When you’ve accumulated a few weeks of detritus, they’ll send you a shipping label to ship it back to them.
  • Everything is included, even flour. Even, tiny adorable little pats of butter in plastic ketchup containers. Wait, is this really a pro?

Cons

  • Smaller portions, especially when they feature a protein, it’s going to feel like you and your loved one are on a diet. Even more with if you have two or three kids who like to eat the proteins.
  • Mis-sized filler. Often the salads were for a family of 8 while the protein was for a family of 1.
  • Recipes often include “exotics” that you aren’t going to be able to find if you want to remake a recipe. I’d love if they suggested alternatives in their recipes.
  • Recipes that aren’t clear, are often rambley, confusingly written and designed. A particular irritation was the soup recipes where you’d add 4 cups of water and then “cook for 3 minutes or until the liquid is slightly reduced in volume”. Soups don’t “reduce” in 3 minutes, folks.
  • When picking recipes you can only pick certain combinations. Each selection knocks others out. (Why? Cost? Shipping?)

The Recipes

Here are the recipes (with exotic ingredients in parentheses) followed by a grade (followed by more passive-aggressive comments in parentheses).

  • Chicken and Udon Noodle Soup (dried lime): B (it’s a soup, you’ll never get more than a B for a soup)
  • Seared Cod and Date Vinaigrette (medjool dates, sherry vinegar, watermelon radish): C (a rough cooking technique for the cod, another of their damned shallot vinaigrettes!, diced dates in quinoa was great and salad was outstanding)
  • Italian Meatball Soup (farro, lacinato kale): B (A hearty meatball soup is still a soup, see above)
  • Spiced Roast Chicken and Collard Greens: A (delicious, short on protein but great sauce, needed more greens and less onion)
  • Salmon and Lemon Bucatini: C (lemon flavoring was fun, not enough Brussels sprouts, far too much pasta)
  • Spiced Pork Chops w Charred Poblano Salsa and Sweet Potato Mash: A
  • Shrimp Banh Mi with Pickled Veg and Beet Salad: B (many of their recipes have bread which doesn’t transport well, bad news for a Banh Mi which is all about the roll)
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup with Rainbow Chart, Avocado and Cilantro: C (a meh soup, tortillas were poor, plus we burned them)
  • Juicy Lucy Burgers: C (decent burger with sadly mismatched quantities of onion and salad)
  • Buffalo Chicken Sandwich (white endive): C (chicken thighs are too fatty in this, we abandoned the salad)
The big winner from Blue Apron, Chicken, Collard Greens and a Maple Glaze

The big winner from Blue Apron, Chicken, Collard Greens and a Maple Glaze. This serves two.

The verdict

2 As, 3 Bs, 5 Cs. Are you feeling lucky, punk?

HelloFresh

We ordered HelloFresh for 4 people rather than the 2 person servings we got for Blue Apron. Each HelloFresh meal (for 2) is packed in a tidy white box with the recipe name on the side. HelloFresh recipes were about half the words of Blue Apron and often included an interesting cooking technique.

A HelloFresh recipe card.

A HelloFresh recipe card.

An open HelloFresh box

An open HelloFresh box

Pros

  • 4 person boxes generally went for 6 meals.
  • Very nice protein and fish
  • Boxes in boxes make seeing what’s available easy. Does take up more room in your fridge.

Cons

  • Packaging (boxes in boxes). We accumulated more freezer packs than we know what to do with.

The Recipes

Again, each recipe has a grade and “exotic” ingredients are in parentheses. There isn’t nearly the quantity of passive-aggressive sniping required for these meals.

  • Shrimp and Chorizo Paella: A
  • Cherry-Lime Rickey Chicken (ground juniper berries): B
  • Charred Corn and Salmon Salad: A+ (we’ve remade this several times and it’s healthy and great).
  • Seared Steak and Charred Nectarine Salad: B (very similar to charred salmon salad which we loved, just made us miss the better one)
  • Port and Chinese Eggplant Stir-Fry (chinese eggplant): B
  • Zucchini Noodle Lasagna: A
  • Reuben Steak with Tangy Braised Cabbage and Russian Dressing Pan Sauce: B (too much cabbage)
  • Chipotle-Glazed Pork Chops with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Broccoli: A
  • Lemongrass Chicken Skewers with Coconut Rice and Cuke-Carrot Slaw (lemongrass stalks): A
  • Sweet and Sour Pork Stir Fry: B
  • Parmesan Crusted Chicken w Balsamic Potato Salad and Garlic Roasted Tomatos: A
Chipotle-Glazed Pork Chops with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Broccoli (from the previous box)

Chipotle-Glazed Pork Chops with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Broccoli (from the previous box)

The Verdict

6 As, 5 Bs. A solid performance.

What’s next?

We’re trying Fresh20. They give you a list and you have to buy it. But they tell you what to cook and a year of their service costs as much as a nice meal out. Stand by.

And in the meantime, here’s some food porn for your viewing pleasure.

OMG, showoff pictures from Florence. This was amazing citrus-y lardo on crusty bread.

OMG, showoff pictures from Florence. This was amazing citrus-y lardo on crusty bread.

Show-off pictures from Florence. This was a cheese plate.

Show-off pictures from Florence. This was a cheese plate.