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City Whisk, the app that localizes discovery

The following story appears in the current issue of 585 Magazine (July/August ’14).

Jonathan Marcowicz is the first real explorer I’ve ever met.

We sit in a café, sip coffee, and reminisce of travel. He speaks of his past like he’s still there: a heuriger inVenice, a Chopin concert in France, serendipitous nights of intrigue in Versailles. His voice has heart; his eyes tell me all I need to know. And, really, I do know.

I tell him about an Ireland trip that changed my life. About Dingle, where the locals pointed me down a windy dirt road, past roaming sheep and old ruins, a path that led me to a drop-dead gorgeous cliff edging the endless Atlantic Ocean.

“That’s it!” he says. “Exactly.”

To Marcowicz, locals are the secret ingredients for intrepid adventure—a belief he cemented after a New Orleans New Year’s road trip.The more natives he spoke with, the more unique and engaging his expe- rience became. That’s how CityWhisk—a mobile app he cofounded with Marissa McDowell and Stacey Lampell—was born. The app offers travel itineraries from a local perspective and recently won first place in the Existing Civic App category at the 2014 AT&T Rochester Civic App Challenge.

Read more at 585Magazine.com

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Fantasy Football

5 Fantasy Football Life Lessons

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I play fantasy football.

Watch as my machismo drips away.

Despite its rapidly growing popularity (an estimated 33,559,990 players in 2013), people like myself continue to struggle with admitting our rabid and passionate participation. Fantasy footballers are like the new nerds. Remember when comic book nerds were uncool? That is, before Hollywood employed attractive people and dumbed down comic book story-lines?

Fantasy Football is nerdy but not yet cool. Proclaiming, “I was screwed by Dez Bryant,” outside of your respective fantasy milieu, will turn a few heads, juke a few coworkers, and roll a few eyes. It is nearly impossible to get taken seriously while talking fantasy football.

But I understand the stigmas: it is a waste of time, a waste of effort, ambition, mental energy, money, relationships, opportunity cost, all that stuff. On paper, droves of grown men and women pretending to be NFL coaches between August and December certainly reads like a bad idea. We could all probably be accomplishing something more meaningful with our lives. Yada, yada…

Listen, I love fantasy football. I’m certain if aliens invaded during my fantasy draft, for instance, I probably wouldn’t notice. I’m that invested. The entertainment experience is better than most of today’s movies and TV shows, it keeps me engaged to distant friends and relatives, and participation is free (minus time spent and optional buy-ins).

But my favorite aspect of playing the game is the life lessons I can pull from. I’m here to argue that fantasy football isn’t a waste of time, but rather, that there is value far beyond its temporal and waning pride. Fantasy football rewards its players in ways that can prepare them for many of life’s most important ups and downs. Check it out: (more…)

Taming the travel tongue-3

Taming the Travel Tongue: A Wanderlust Warning

Ahhh summer—that magical time when anything is possible and no destination is too far. It’s a time when plans change suddenly, and personal routines wave “bye bye”. We hit the road and chart a course to Getmeouttahere, in Somewherelse County, USA, leaving behind—in a crooked rearview mirror—our favorite hometown we love to hate.

Of course, when we come back, as we always do, we haul our pictures and magnets and receipts and stories and we tell and show everyone because we’re travelers, dammit. It’s what we’re meant to do. Facebook and Instagram, for instance, were practically built for us.

Friends, coworkers, and cashiers ask us about the trip, and then it happens: our eyes glow red and we latch on to them like a stamp on a postcard: “It all started at 5:15am on Friday morning. The day lie still before us, though we knew the journey would be treacherous!”

So it was good?

But we don’t stop there. No, instead, impersonating Ted Mosby, we recite How I Met My Roadtrip and the words bleed like an artery.

Movers and Shakers

I find that when someone asks about our trip that they are usually just being polite. We need to set limits and remember them. (Limits, I know, not the traveler’s favorite subject). We must revisit the thin line between sharing and bragging and learn how to better walk it. Because, really, everyone hates a bragger. Even braggers hate other braggers.

(more…)

Austin TX (1)

Weekend (Ultimate) Warriors: Austin, TX

All of our previous trips have been via car, but Austin, TX is way too far to drive from Rochester, NY. This one deserved a couple plane tickets. We hopped on a plane Friday afternoon and arrived in Austin by midnight. It was still 100 degrees at night, by the way.

Austin, TX

Why go to Austin? A very special family reunion, that’s why. My family! I don’t usually go to these things. I’ve never been very close to my family. And honestly, being caged up with a bunch of them in a foreign area sounds less like a vacation and more like a nightmare, or at least a plot proposal for a new sequel in the Saw movie franchise.

But as it turns out, not all of my family is as crazy as the ones who raised me. More on that later.

Oh my god, the food. When I returned from Austin, all I wanted to talk about was the food. Still, all I want to talk about is the food. That Tex Mex is something else. Ughhh, I can’t find the words. Instead, I’ll just make stomach noises: euuuuuoooooo ggaaaraaahhhh vrrrruuuuuuuu euuhhooahhh.

Got it? Yeah, that’s how great it was. Here’s a place (Joe’s Mexican Bakery) we randomly found, right off the highway. The parking lot was bustling which we felt was as good a sign as any. (more…)

MODERN MANTRAS

Modern Mantras in Aged Fiction: Crichton’s Formula for Success

Hidden away in a forty year old (mainstream) fiction novel—a potboiler, a seemingly shallow tale, prime facie—lies the secret formula for life’s success. I almost couldn’t believe it when I read it. It was so simple, so perfect. See, I’ve perused business books and self-help guides, written by CEOs, millionaires and pastors; all these people with too much time on their hands, penning “how to succeed in life.” And I’ve read them, too, because that’s what leaders do. We read books and make mantras and talk about them on our blogs. But the lessons learned in business books often dissipate faster than tweets, and we’re again left with just ourselves, curious and conspiring.

But these two sentences said everything—articulated in a cold, simple language, a language that only Michael Crichton, the master of logical and academic science fiction, could accomplish.

You went out and you hunted, armed with your maps and your instruments, but in the end your preparations did not matter, or even your intuition. You needed your luck, and whatever benefits accrued to the diligent, through sheer, grinding hard work.

Take a second, and read it again. For me? And take it slow, because these are two damn-good, well-constructed sentences. Drink them like you would an overpriced glass of wine, and when you’re done, close your eyes to impress your friends.

- – -

Right? The quote appears in Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain (p. 197), a novel first published in 1969. The book follows a team of scientists looking to prevent an outer-space bacteria strain from wiping out the entire human race. You know, typical motivation source-material for aspiring young professionals.

According to the cover, Andromeda was on the NY Times Bestseller List for 30 weeks. For me, it was not Crichton’s best. Too heavy handed and dry on the exposition, his signature short sequences of action and tension were few to be found. I was desperately looking for a way out at page 197.

And that’s when Crichton subtly implanted his thought nugget. His inception egg. Two pages later, it hatched. I returned to the passage and reread the lines, underlining, pausing, thinking.

“That’s it,” I said. “I found it!” (more…)

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Weekend (Ultimate) Warriors: New Hampshire & Maine

Originally, we had decided to cancel this road trip. See, we’ve been traveling like bandits this summer, and though a budget has kept us in line, we still couldn’t justify another weekend getaway on our current funds.

But then an unknown monster broke into our apartment, and we said, “Hey, now’s as good a time as any to get out of town.” Sometimes you just need to leave.

There was no way we could swing Boston, the original destination, on our budget. So we had to think of somewhere new and cheaper. Megan was craving the ocean, and I didn’t blame her. Neither of us had ever seen an Atlantic beach town before. Ocean towns are generally cheap, since beaches are free (usually). We also decided to save on hotels and sleep in the car, i.e., the Walmart Parking Lot Express.

New Hampshire and Maine were both on my East Coast bucket-list, Maine especially (Stephen King fan, ova heer!). New Hampshire was intriguing because their state motto is “Live Free or Die,” so… As it turned out, New Hampshire has a small sliver of ocean-front property, just below Maine. Perfect.

Massachusetts

While we didn’t necessarily “do” anything in Massachusetts, we did drive through the entire the state. This was exciting for me because I have fantasized about visiting Boston for years. My California friends and I used to host “Boston Night” every Tuesday at my old apartment; we would watch a Boston based movie, eat Boston Baked Beans, and swear a lot. Just being in the state was enthralling. My big purchase? A slice of pizza and soda at a rest-stop. Go Sox!

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New Hampshire

Besides the motto, we didn’t know anything about the state. We Googled “Walmarts near coastal New Hampshire” and the results returned a town named Portsmouth. (more…)

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Source-ry: Today’s Most Annoying Internet Sensation

The internet is like an annoying friend, an acquaintance we put up with because we’ve known it so long. But given the choice between spending two hours on the internet or doing something fun in the world, the world would win every time. We ditch the internet faster than we do soccer after the World Cup. “Internet who?” I am outside!

The internet, however, is our fall-back, our weapon to kill time, our tool to fluff our segmented lives. It is on the verge of replacing TV as a primary means of entertainment; certainly, many TV viewers are using the internet to watch “TV.”

But with the Internet becoming so common place, so comfortable, there’s no doubt that us users are letting our guards down with fact-checking, sourcing, and the questioning of content.

Sure, Net Neutrality is a big concern for all internet users whether they know it or not. But I’m here to argue that there is (possibly) a greater concern negatively affecting the internet’s saturated user base, i.e., the world, on a longer scale, individually.

Lack-checking

The old saying, “Don’t believe everything you hear,” or as my grandfather would say, “Don’t take any wooden nickles,” is as an important a warning as ever in today’s over-stimulated society. The dark arts of the internet age are upon us; word sorcery, (uhem… source-ry) is everywhere: posters posting garbage, a severe lack of fact-checking, massive amounts of assumptions and gullibility. It has all left the internet much like a chaotic and wild Cable Guy basketball game.

Prison Rules

That is, Prison Rules

Social media, Facebook specifically, has created a culture of instantaneous reaction to stimuli. It’s an immediacy that we are all beginning to crave. Fast-food awareness. The information behind this stimuli is often bogus, creating an aura of bullshit. And it drives me crazy.

On whose fault can we blame this madness? Yours, mine, the readers, the posters, the believers. Those who mean well. Those looking to start a fight. Everybody. Unfortunately, when it comes to information submission, there is just no barrier for entry. (more…)

Monster Screen

Open Letter to the Mysterious Animal Hiding in My Apartment

Dear Mysterious Creature,

Welcome. Out of all the windows in Rochester, you chose mine to climb through, and that is an honor. Thank you. My wife heard your ruckus in the living room, the other afternoon, during her day off. I’m sure you weren’t expecting us home. Anyway, the next day, I came across your marking on the window screen which revealed your entry and exit point.

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I guess you could say the gig is up.

Nevertheless, since we now share living space there are some ground rules to cover.

1. My wife is not a fan of mysterious creatures. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you; it just means she doesn’t know you, and that you two should avoid each other for the time being.

2. I, on the other hand, am a HUGE fan of mysterious creatures, proven—of course—by the sweet hum of The X-Files theme song, sweeping out of my bedroom nightly, and—no doubt—into your ears as you watched us from outside, below our bedroom window.

3. Label your food. Don’t eat mine, and I won’t eat yours.

4. If you want to borrow any of my books, please ask. It is polite. Also, I’m weird about the aesthetics and order of my bookcase, so don’t just return titles willie-nilly.

5. The bed is off limits. Though if you prove yourself, we can revisit this rule in time.

I’m curious, monster, where do you come from? Are you a cousin of El Chupacabra? Friends with the Jersey Devil? Are you on your way to visit Champ, the lake monster of Lake Champlain?

And I wonder what you normally eat. I found no food missing from the kitchen, which adds to the mystery. Can I get you anything from Wegmans? No doubt, we are almost out of Ben & Jerry’s; I can pick up your favorite ice-cream pint. Let me guess, Late Night Snack(more…)

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Confessions of a Former Dashboard Confessional Fan

Many pop/rock bands from my youth are reemerging. Weezer, Brand New, Blink 182, mewithoutYou and Jimmy Eat World have all embarked on album reunion tours (Jimmy Eat World just announced one for FUTURES, which is pretty great). For me, this year marks the tenth anniversary of something even more nostalgic and silly, that is, my high school graduation.

I think about where I was ten years ago and who I was listening to. Oddly enough, it is a lot of the same music I listen to today. Adding to the list up top we have Death Cab for Cutie, Beck, Denison Witmer, Lovedrug, Ben Folds…

I’m okay with still liking all these bands. Their music is sustaining, and I’m proud to say that they helped shape my younger ears.

But there’s other bands from my past, that when they pop up, I’m not so okay with. What I’m getting at is that sometimes certain music reminds me how creepy I was in high school.

The Bands You Have Come to Fear the Most

Remember Dashboard Confessional? That emo acoustic-rock band lead by Chris Carrabba out of Further Seems Forever? I’m asking but, really, I know you do. Odds are if you are around my age and listened to indie/emo you probably owned two or three of his EPs; the MTV Unplugged DVD/CD combo; you wore the D/C pins on your denim jacket; and you shouted his lyrics like hell, in angst, when relationships broke (and really, even when you were happy).

Yeah. That Dashboard Confessional.

What was it about this band that was so gripping? I mean sure, he sang about falling in love and break-ups and getting cheated on, which captured the essence of dating in high-school, but there was something else. Something that just connected.

Maybe it was the time. One of those rare things, you know? A perfect storm, fueled by emotion-hungry MTV rebels who were looking for a genuineness than rock radio couldn’t provide. And Chris Carrabba sang from the heart. He was always truthful on stage, and I think that’s what we loved. He was the genuine, earnest article. He was the folk-voice of my high school generation, and, to be honest, it’s totally embarrassing.

But before I get ahead of myself, here’s a quick recap for those who honestly don’t know about Dashboard Confessional.

Kevin’s Dashboard 3 Point Recap

1. Cheated on by his wife, he poured his heart out on some angsty acoutsic EPs

2. Those EPs made him super popular. Then he made more of the same

3. He eventually pulled a ’65 Dylan and went electric, earning a couple big MTV hits.

I was a REALLY big fan of Dashboard. The extent of my obsession was a bit much. You can tell I was a big fan because I drop the band’s last name when I refer to them. We were that close. Like Chris, I now need to confess. I need to brush embarrassing memories off my chest, so I can finally move forward, like an adult.

(To the tune of Buzzfeed)

Vindicated?

1. I had a questionably handsome poster on my bedroom wall of Chris on the cover of SPIN

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2. I used my friend’s dad’s eBay account to consistently bid on Dashboard merch. mlRflFAMpCcNczhbPF_fKhg (more…)

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Weekend (Ultimate) Warriors: Lake Placid, NY & Burlington, VT

Lake monsters, teddy bears, camping and ice cream—watch out, folks, this was the quintessential Number Kevin weekend. Megan and I have road-tripped and explored many new lands this summer, but this trip (I know I say this every time) was easily my favorite. It was my first time in the Adirondak mountains as well as in Vermont. Believe it, guys and gals, believe the hype.

Lake Placid

Our weekend began in Rochester, NY, where we live. Megan had Friday off, and I took a half day. This afforded us the extra time we needed to get into town and set up camp before sunset. From Rochester, Lake Placid is a five hour drive without hitting traffic or giant alligators. I’m referencing the monster movie, Lake Placid, of course, which was a favorite of mine as child. Sadly, the town seemed more interested in its Olympic history than its cryptozoology.

SIDE NOTE: IMDB told me the movie was actually filmed in British Columbia. Lucky for me, a neighboring lake held its own monster legend (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

As it turns out, the 1932 and the 1980 Winter Olympics were both held in Lake Placid, home of the “Miracle” USA Hockey Team which I found pretty endearing. Also, I found a bobsled.

Not yet sponsored...

Not yet sponsored…

The town itself was quaint and beautiful; its downtown strip was among one of my favorites yet. We filled up on candy-by-the-pound, got some coffee, and did a little magnet shopping for our travel fridge. Because cheesy married couples need magnets. We’ve accepted it. Moving along…

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Main Street, Lake Placid

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