Philanthropy, Money, and Buckets of Ice

I want to just clear something up now and for the future.


There are causes that I care a great deal about. I am knowledgeable about them. I advocate for them. I give what I can to them. I don’t make a lot of noise about it (unless I’m actively advocating about an issue).

I don’t make philanthropic decisions based on challenges or social pressure. I’m not judging if those things drive you, but they don’t do it for me. To know me well is to know that I am self-motivated, and do not care about social pressure.

I didn’t make an effort to conform to social pressure back when I was a kid, I sure as hell don’t plan to as an adult.


I give my money where I give it. Sometimes to groups, usually to individuals who are going through ugliness.

I like to give as much as I can to only one or two causes at a time so that I can give an amount that actually matters.

To whom I donate is between the recipient, myself, and the IRS.

Buckets of Ice

I’m not saying that the Ice Bucket Challenge is bad or that ALS is unworthy of donation. I’m saying that this phenomenon that we’re seeing is another Livestrong bracelets. It’s trendy. Livestrong bracelets were less about the cause, than they were about not having to explain to your friends why you didn’t wear one. Then the proliferation came… A bracelet in every color for every cause.

When Ice Bucket Challenge variants emerge (and they will), I will be just as uninterested in them; even if it’s for a cause I contribute to.

I don’t want or need social validation coupled with my good deeds. 

The Bottom-line

Whatever makes you donate money and time is fine by me. Just please don’t badger me.

If the Ice Bucket Challenge made you feel good, I suggest finding something you’re passionate about and doing what you can for that cause. It’s quite fulfilling.

Speaking at DC’s Drupal Capital Camp & Gov’t Days

More good news [that I should have posted weeks ago]. I will be delivering my new talk “Amazing Design Through Empathy” at Washington, DC’s Drupal Capital Camp & Gov’t Days this Wednesday, July 30.

Drupal Capital Camp & Gov't Days 2014

This talk is in my employer Phase2 Technology’s backyard, and I have many brilliant coworkers who will be delivering all manner of nifty presentations. If you’re in the neighborhood you should come on down and check them out.

Here be the description:

The difference between a good product and an amazing one boils down to one thing: Empathy. Developing an understanding of your users that is so deep that you can feel what they feel enables you to design products and experiences that will truly resonate with your users.

Through illustrative and entertaining examples, I will take you on a tour of the the highs that are achievable through empathic design, and some of the depths that designers sink to when they design without empathy. You’ll learn how to activate the empathy that is already within you, and how you can use that power to improve all aspects of your product design, from requirements gathering to user research, and everything in between.

PS: Good news! I will not be featuring any cliched examples. You will not hear me mention Apple or Jony Ive once during my presentation, because I have empathy for you.

(Spira – Drupal Capital Camp & Gov’t Days)

Get your ticket, and let me know if you’ll be out there. We can imbibe a beverage.

If you’re in Boston on August 2nd, I will be delivering the same talk at Design4Drupal Boston.

Love of Board Games

In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy blew out the power in my region like an exuberant child extinguishing birthday candles. That same event rekindled my love of table top games.

I stayed with my parents through the storm because their town was supposed to receive a less direct hit from the storm than mine. Comically they lost power for two weeks, and my apartment lost it for about 30 seconds.

Each night after the storm my parents and I played a game of Pandemic by lantern light. Pandemic is an easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master cooperative game where a group of people play as a team trying to prevent the spread of four different viruses around the globe. All of the players work together against a relentless board. We were all new to the game, and sitting there in the darkness trying to reason out how we could possibly win as the odds continued to stack against us is one of my fondest adult memories with my parents.

The memory bubbled up because Quintin Smith of the brilliant tabletop gaming website Shut-Up & Sit Down put this post up in memory of his recently deceased father. It made me all sorts of introspective.

Board Games > Video Games (for me)

Post Sandy, board games or table top games have pretty much pushed video games out of my life. What I loved most about video games was playing them with other people… Other people who were in the room with me; and that’s not how video games have evolved.

Video games have absolutely become much more multiplayer focused than they were when I was growing up. However that multiplayer has shifted from a friend in the room to people over the Internet. That just doesn’t do it for me.

I want to play games with people I know and love in the same room. Whether I am playing with them to try and outsmart a deviously aggressive board like Pandemic, or against them as I try to outwit them in a game like Cyclades, it’s the in person, human experience that I crave. That I loved about Halo and Halo 2.

I work from home most days, pushing pixels and video conferencing. When I unwind, I want the experience to be tangible.

You can expect more tabletop gaming posts. I’m shocked it took me this long to really write about it.

(Image via The Nerdy Bomb)

10 Lessons Learned From Touring 6 Top Gelato Joints in NYC

What we did

We chose six well-reviewed gelaterias of lower Manhattan and proceeded to visit each one over the course of an afternoon. We attempted to taste the same flavors throughout the tour.

It was a nice walk for a beautiful day.

Why we did it

  • When people visiting want dessert, you need to show off Manhattan at its best. Knowledge is power.
  • Because gelato!

Difference between Gelato and Ice Cream

It comes down to three factors: fat, air, and serving temperature. If you’re interested in the details, check out Serious Eats.

What you need to know is that ice cream is more milky, while gelato is more sugary. It’s also tougher to make good mass market gelato, and gelato melts at a higher temperature than ice cream, so don’t take your time with it.


1. Don’t eat gelato at 6 gelateria in one day

This wasn’t a great idea. Your stomach will take a full day to forgive you.

2. Do eat gelato at Amorino

They use high quality ingredients to craft their flavors (notice the brown colored pistachio), which are rich, flavorful, and creamy. You can put as many flavors as you like in any size. If you choose a cone, they will craft into the shape of a flower for you (that being said, their flower cone kung fu is weak compared to the tight and perfect flower cones served at Gelatro Rosa in Budapest).

Gelato Flower - Gelatro Rosa Budapest

3. Don’t eat gelato at places with toothpaste green pistachio gelato

Pistachio is a quality canary. It should be a very light green or brownish color.

We’d learned this before the start of the tour and were pleased not to encounter this use of food coloring at any of our gelato stops. You don’t want the fake the stuff, and even if you don’t like pistachio, fake ingredients in one gelato is an indicator of poor quality ingredients in the other flavors.


4. Do eat gelato at Mia Chef Gelateria

The gelato here is sweeter than all the others, the stracciatella has a stronger flavor, and most importantly, the pistachio takes the cake.

They also offer a wonderful gelato cooking class with their chef (it’s where we picked up a lot of our gelato knowledge).

5. Don’t eat gelato at non-specialized restaurants

Gelato is a specialty food. Making it properly requires thousands of dollars in gelato-specific equipment, and a ton of knowledge. It also needs to be made and served fresh daily. Get your gelato at a gelateria, not at a corner store, and not a restaurant, no matter how much you enjoy their savory appetizers, such as we found at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria.

6. Do eat gelato at Chelsea Market

As long as you don’t need a place to sit and you can stand to wait in line, L’arte del gelato has a solid product. They don’t have all the classic flavors there, but the ones they have are creamy and flavorful. This wasn’t a favorite, but it was a solid choice.

7. Don’t eat gelato at places with bright yellow banana gelato

This is another quality canary. The part of the banana that you eat isn’t bright yellow. The only reason for a banana gelato to be yellow is because it has food coloring and probably artificial flavoring.

8. Do eat at il laboratorio del gelato…especially if you want flavors that are a bit off the beaten path

If you’re down near Katz’s with a hankering for something different, it’s a solid choice, although you’ll feel really small standing in that huge space without many tables. But don’t go out of your way to get there.

9. Grom is overrated.

Grom is a hugely hyped gelato joint, and it was a bit of a letdown. We almost forgot to write about it.

The thing is, they do things right. They use proper ingredients, and equipment. They know what they are doing too… It just don’t taste that great. Especially when compared with Amorino, which is maybe a 10 minute walk away.

10. Price is pretty standard

The following things are not standard: size of scoops, amount of scoops per container, layout of scoops within a container, and willingness of the person scooping for put more flavors in your container. But the bottom line is, if you want four flavors to share amongst a group, you’re looking at $8-10 total (not per-person). A smaller adult portion will run you about $6.00.

Ordering a larger portion and sharing is a good deal.

Top gelaterias

These two stood out as the decisive winners of NYC Gelatofest 2014.

  • Amorino
  • Mia Chef Gelateria