Thelma Picks up her Trumpet

My friend Thelma picked up her trumpet again:

I’ve been practicing a half hour most days of the week and guess what I discovered? Practicing consistently improves your playing. Who knew?

I’ve discovered a similar thing: daily practice leads to improvement, whether it’s physiotherapy, working out, meditation, cooking, cycling, reading.

I wonder if there’s something about how we 58 year olds were raised that caused us to doubt this to be true.

Something tells me it’s about faith at the core: a belief that something we do now (when we’re no good at something) can lead to mastery at some point in the future.

I’ve got that faith now; I wish it had come earlier.

Swenn Relaunch on Saturday

I have such a soft spot in my heart for Swenn, the clothing and stationery store in downtown Charlottetown. It’s the kind of store you want in your remote coastal city, along with good coffee, a good bookstore, a good library, and good bicycle shops, if you pine for a hedge against creeping provincialism (and sometimes wish you lived in Brighton or Berlin or Bologna).

I am a dedicated wearer of Swenn Eco-essentials T-shirts (an about-face for me, as Olivia will attest, after several decades of dressing like it was 1957): I wear them to work out, I wear them as my daily driver. They keep their shape, they’re comfortable, and they’re reasonably priced.

So, like I said, I’m a fan.

Tomorrow — Saturday, June 15, 2024 — Swenn is celebrating the launch of their new Charlottetown location (at 204 Queen Street), and the launch of a new collection, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. An East Pointer & friend will be there at 4 to kick things off, followed by a DJ set at 5; Robert Pendergast is doing the catering.

I dropped by the new location today — it’s beside the post office, across from City Hall — to pick up some t-shirts and see the new space. It’s smaller, compact even. But it’s well-designed, and well-merchandised, and, more important than anything, it has actual daylight streaming through actual windows (the old location was landlocked inside the Confederation Court Mall, and while it had acreage to spare, it lacked access to light and air).

Perhaps I’ll see you at the launch tomorrow?

A poster in the window of the new Swenn location showing details of the June 15 launch event.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser

Jenny Nicholson’s The Spectacular Failure of the Star Wars Hotel is an epic 4 hour video that I came to via the side door of a leadership coaching firm, which used it to frame a business allegory:

Jenny Nicholson’s epic “The Spectacular Failure of the Star Wars Hotel,” … breaks down in microscopic detail her visit to Disney’s Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser … While it highlights a litany of problems with the hotel itself, the video can also be viewed as a diagnosis of the entertainment industry’s current ills writ large … And she does this against a backdrop of stuffed animals and while wearing various costumes, including, at one point, a giant suit resembling a Porg.

On the surface, this is a 20-part series about super-fans and the corporations who fail them. But under that, if you’re paying attention, is an MBA without any student debt. Here’s the wild part. We’ve been watching the video at 1x. It’s four hours long! And when we tried to put it at 1.25x, we had to slow it back down.

I’m 60 minutes in so far. Nicholson is a compelling screen presence, her research and level of detail is awe-inspiring, the story of the ill-fated “immersive hotel” is bizarre and interesting in all the right ways. The result is something that I can’t stop watching.

How we planned our Norwegian team offsite as a remote startup”

Readwise, the startup that makes both my snippet-remembering and RSS-reading apps of choice, took itself to Norway for an offsite at the Juvet Landskapshotell.

From the section How much do we spend on offsites:

Candidly, we hesitated to write this retrospective because we feared it might give the false impression that we’re somehow living too large. The truth is that Readwise is a bootstrapped company that has never raised venture capital and therefore runs extremely lean. In fact, my cofounder and I worked on Readwise for three years before we paid ourselves a single dollar.

The reality is that two fun offsites per year costs us less than half of what we’d spend colocating year round in an office meaning we still save money relative to a traditional company.

In a former life, I worked in commercial real estate private equity investing exclusively in office buildings. As a result, the rules of thumb for how much money a typical company spends on office space (including extras like internet, furniture, and coffee) are etched into my brain. In a coastal city such as San Francisco or New York, the annual cost might start at $20,000 per employee before you layer in big tech extravagances such as catered lunches and stocked refrigerators.

Meanwhile, we spent a shade more than $4,000 per person on the Norway offsite, which is actually higher than average because it was set in Europe. In the Americas, we typically budget more like $3,000 to $3,500 per person. This results in approximately $7,500 per employee per year in offsite expenditures, or less than half what we’d be spending on an office in a tech hub.

Ultimately, however, it’s not about cost. Readwise as a company — that is to say, the team — simply wouldn’t exist as it does today without offsites.

Inasmuch as I’m a paying customer, I helped to cover the cost, and so I appreciate the report, and endorse the strategy.

The Banana Republic-Gap-Old Navy trichotomy”

Ranjan Roy in The Sweetgreen-ification of Society:

There has always been prevalent class stratification and social signaling. But we’re in this weird space where a confluence of user data, targeted marketing, labor trends and even supply chain innovation all work together to create an almost weaponized quinoa bowl. A company with the technical chops, branding resources, and a low interest rate influx of private capital can simply steamroll us with any retail concept. We’re no longer constrained to the Banana Republic-Gap-Old Navy trichotomy. Every facet of our daily consumer lives can now be hyper-segmented.

I love the phrase “Banana Republic-Gap-Old Navy trichotomy.”

Checking a bag is travel magic.”

From The Brooks Review, Elevate Your Travel: Why Checked Bags Are the Way to Go:

So I checked my bag. And then I did it again. And then again.

Checking a bag is travel magic.

You get the best of both worlds: the ability to pack nearly everything you want to pack while still only carrying a personal item onto the plane — albeit a much lighter personal item. Granted, none of this is new; this is how the air travel experience was initially designed to be. So instead of rolling your eyes at this less-than-novel approach, allow me to remind you how we all lost our damned minds being obsessed with personal item carry-on situations and instead should be embracing the checked bag.

I have been in the never-check class for a long time (although, for a time, travelling with a 65 pound service poodle, plus his gear, made this impossible). But the stress of whether or not there will be a place for a carry on above my seat (hint: there won’t be) is real, and the more I travel the more I realize that we should optimize out all the stress points under our control.

So perhaps I’ll become a bag checker?

(via Patrick Rhone)

National Zine > PowerPoint Month

As you know, this month is National Zine > PowerPoint Month in Canada1, the month every year where we replace PowerPoint presentations with handcrafted zines.

Tonight I’m presenting a show-and-tell about our printing and paper adventures in Europe in April and May, and it only made sense that I follow suit and replace a slide deck of photos of printing presses and boxes with a zine.

I decided this while in the print shop without a computer, so I went old school, and used only pen and ink, plus the Parish Hall photocopier, to make the entire thing.

If you’re free at 6:00 p.m. tonight (June 8, 2024), come by The Bookmark and get yourself a copy and hear to my presentation.

1. This is not true. I made it up.

A photo of a stack of zines produced for tonight's meeting.