Sunday, April 20, 2008

Membership Has Its Dishes

I've racked up a lot of miles and billable time for my company over the years. In 2007, I delivered over 160 billable days, and in recognition, my company rewarded me with a vacation of my choice anywhere in the country. Its part of a tradition known as "The President's Club" which many companies adopt as part of a performance-based incentive program.

So, for the past few days as part of "making Club" (as the sales force refers to the acheivement), my wife and I have been enjoying the sights, sounds, and cuisine of the Big Apple. We've enjoyed orchestra seats at the Metropolitan Opera, walks through Central Park, and visits to landmarks including Times Square and the American Museum of Natural History.

During our travels, we've enjoyed dining at some well known and not-so-well known gems of Manhattan. I want to depart from my usual technical and societal commentary, and indulge instead in some "observational gastronomy".

The Stage Deli (837 7th Avenue between 53rd and 54th) has been the toast of Broadway and the place to be seen eating gargantuan corned beef sandwiches since 1937. Regular court holders of New York's "most famous deli" have included Fiorello LaGuardia, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe, Milton Berle, Jack Benny and George Burns, just to name a few. Even today, movers and shakers from New York and beyond are seen 'being seen' here. Many of the Stage's entries on the menu are named after sandwiches favored by some of the famous regulars. (I tackled the "Aretha Franklin", a triple decker of tender pastrami, turkey, roast-beef, swiss cheese and a whole lotta soul.)

Il Gattopardo (33 West 54th Street) is a minimally adorned and understated southern Italian resteraunt across from the Museum of Modern Art. The creamy brick walls and simple tables offer no distraction from the embrace of Neapolitan home cooking and a wine list that is beyond exceptional. We stopped by on our first night in the city and became immediate fans of the lasagna with veal and beef meatballs, flavored with thyme sauce and accented with smoked mozzerella. Because of our schedule that night (we were attending the final performance of the Zeffirelli production of "La Boheme" at the Met) we couldn't stay for dessert. We returned for a second night which included a grilled tuna steak cooked exactly to order (rare-medium-rare), accompanied by broccoli rabe and red peppers. We stayed for dessert and can report that the mascarpone and espresso would almost have been worth missing the first act the night before.

Cafe Des Artistes (One West 67th Street) will be our dining choice prior to our attending the premiere of "La Fille Du Regiment" at the Met tomorrow night. I'll update this article with commetary after returning from Lincoln Center.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

31 flavors of Asgard

It's good to be back after a particularly long pause provided by many client trips around the country. (In truth, my travel isn't letting up anytime soon, as I am off to TRIZCon this weekend to deliver a paper before heading to NYC.)

So I find it fitting that a story I'd like to share with you is one not only of travel, but of perhaps what makes up part of the heart and soul of innovation. Over the last 4 years, Robert McDonald, with the help of about 5,000 Dutch school children have embarked to create "The world's largest recycled object" - a 15-meter replica of a Viking ship made entirely out of 15 million wooden popsicle sticks.

This week, the ship set sail on an ambitious journey from the Netherlands to Canary Wharf in London. Later, Robert hopes to sail the ship along the path of the ancient Vikings to North America, stopping at Iceland and Greenland along the way.

The challenges of collecting and reusing 15 million popsicle sticks (along with about a 1/2 ton of glue) are as formidable as forging Midgard out of the vast emptiness of Ginnungagap. Why do it, then?

Somewhere at the heart of the human experience is the need to create, conquer, and innovate. For Robert McDonald, his need was born out of personal tragedy, and emerged as a passion "to teach children that anything is possible".

Many great discoveries and breakthroughs are born of a greater passion, and a need to create a legacy or story that is enduring, and echoes in the hearts and minds of future generations. The value of the innovator's path is only partially realized at the end of the trail. The greater value is the willingness of the travellers (and those who follow them) to take the journey, and embrace all transformations the path bestows.

To sit idly by, is surely the short road to Ragnarok.