Wallpaper Wednesday: Midnight Taxi by Simon Abrams

On the way home late one night after working on presentation materials for a pitch. (I don't remember who we were pitching, or if we won.)

The city becomes serene and peaceful, and there's something about observing it through the scratched, streaked glass of a taxi windows that is romantic, mysterious, ethereal. Or maybe I've just watched too many movies.

Desktop iPhone iPad

Wallpaper Wednesday: Lower Manhattan by Simon Abrams


This week's wallpaper is late. Sorry about that. It is a cityscape of Lower Manhattan with some rather dramatic clouds. This is the South view from Deutsch's offices in Chelsea.

iPhone, iPad and desktop versions are available, and as always, don't be a jerk.

EDIT: I just realized I uploaded a low-resolution version of this wallpaper for the desktop size - that's been fixed.

Download: iPhone iPad Desktop

Wallpaper Wednesday: Bamboo by Simon Abrams


I think this is bamboo. I'm not a botanist or arborist or herbologist, or any other -ist that would know what type of plant this is, though. All I know is, it was up on the Highline Park and it provided a really nice textural background for some portraits I was shooting that day. Grab it in iPhone, iPad and Desktop sizes via the links below.

Usage rights: no commercial use, please. Link back with credit if you do use/remix this. Don't be a jerk.

iPhone iPad Desktop

Wallpaper Wednesday: Orbs by Simon Abrams


Today's wallpaper is an abstract image I shot several years ago, taking advantage of my 50 f/1.4mm lens' pretty bokeh and shallow depth of field.

Sorry it's a little late - I think Squarespace was having some back-end issues.

Dowload desktop, iPad and iPhone versions via the links below, and as always, don't be a jerk. If you redistribute, I'd appreciate a link back here.

Desktop iPhone iPad

Gateway to Brooklyn by Simon Abrams

 The arch at Grand Army Plaza

The arch at Grand Army Plaza

I'm currently using this as my desktop wallpaper, and I thought I'd share. It's a close crop of the inside of the arch at Grand Army Plaza, shot at dusk one evening earlier this year.

Download from the links below. Usage rights are as follows: don't be a jerk. Share, remix, attribute with a link back here. No commercial use please.

Why Website Speed is Important - SixRevisions by Simon Abrams

Let’s do some back-of-the-napkin calculations.


Last year alone, Amazon’s estimated revenue totaled $74.5 billion.

Based on Linden’s disclosure, increasing page loading times by just a fraction of a second would cost Amazon $745 million a year in lost revenue!

I'm no analytics guy, but it sounds like we in the business of building websites need to make them load faster.

Except for the AOL case study on the bottom of the page, the article doesn't really mention connection speed, though. I bring that up to say that this seems like a pretty strong argument for improving broadband speeds in America, like the telecoms are supposed to be doing anyway, but are dragging their feet on, because why should they; they already got their National  Broadband Plan money.

Shodan by Simon Abrams

 With Shihan Alfred DiGrazia after the Black Belt Test

With Shihan Alfred DiGrazia after the Black Belt Test

Well, it's done. Those weeks of anxiety are over, the black belt test has come and gone, and I did it. And it was absolutely the hardest thing I've ever done. The physical aspect was grueling and unimaginably hard - I don't think I've ever sprinted, kicked, punched, burpeed, or done so many push-ups in my life. I have no idea if it's possible, but I think I might have sprained my diaphragm, I was gasping for air so hard. But the hardest part — by far — was not quitting. 20 minutes in, every part of my body was screaming for me to just sit down on the mat and stop. My head was spinning, I was panting for air, everything hurt like hell, it took all of my concentration to keep my balance and not fall over during kicking drills and kata… Every time Shihan said run, I wanted to flop down on the mat and tap out. During the kumite, I got knocked over (I tripped or lost my balance — really, I swear!) and lying there, even just for a few seconds, felt so damn good. But I got up.

Now, in retrospect, I'm kind of sad I didn't look stronger, and I couldn't have been more impressive in my fights. By the end I was just flailing and getting hit. But I know that's just the vain part of me thinking that. The whole point was for me to be utterly beyond running on empty by the time the fights came around, and that my real test was whether I'd quit or keep going.

I'm really proud that I didn't quit. I have a pretty strong competitive drive sometimes, especially against myself. But I couldn't have done it without the constant encouragement of Shihan Al, Sensei Allison, my fellow classmates, and the presence of both my former* senseis Brian and Edwin, and my wife Stephanie.

People have been asking me what's next. I'm going to keep training - I want to refine my technique, improve my form and my stamina, and maybe even start teaching. And I want to improve my fighting. I still get a little freaked out when sparring, so I need to be more relaxed and comfortable with that. The next level of black belt is a long road and many years away, though - I'm nowhere near being ready to even think about that at this point.

Most importantly, though, I want to remember exactly how every minute of that test felt, so I can remind myself that when things get hard, and my brain is yelling at me to give up, I can overcome that need to quit and that I can do anything I decide I want to do.

*Brian and Edwin will always be my teachers, so "former" probably isn't the right word - it's just that I don't currently train with them on a regular basis.

The Hardest Thing I Will Have Done by Simon Abrams

  Brown belt (2nd kyu) test. March 2012

Brown belt (2nd kyu) test. March 2012

Just over six years of martial arts training will culminate one week from today, when I will be testing for my black belt (shodan) at Midwood Martial Arts and Family Fitness Center.

When I was a kid I wanted to take karate lessons, but I never bothered to ask my dad about it - I just assumed he'd say no (looking back, I honestly don't know why I assumed that). I happened to mention that childhood desire off-handedly to my boss one day, and in a case of pure coincidence (aka serendipity), her husband had just opened a karate school in Brooklyn. He gave me one free class (it was a slow day, so it was just me and him), and from then, I've been hooked.

You a fan, a phony, a fake, a pussy, a Stan I still whip your ass, you thirty-six in a karate class You Tae-bo ho, tryna work it out, you tryna get brolic Ask me if I'm tryna kick knowledge - Nas, Ether

There's a recurring joke in our culture about grown men taking karate classes - I don't really get it. It's such a good workout, no matter how old you are, and beats hanging around waiting for some gym rat to get finished with the dumbells. Plus, you learn some usable self-defence skills. I won't claim to be the toughest guy in the world, but at least I know I can get punched - hard - and it won't shock me into paralysis. I'll hit back.

Back to my black belt test: I'm terrified. I keep having little minor panic attacks about every possible aspect of the test. Will I get enough sleep? What should I eat beforehand? I hope I don't get a nervous stomach and have to run to the bathroom before the test. Will I be able to make it through the conditioning portion of the test? What about the fights (kumite)? There are black belts coming in from at least two other states to help with my test. I will have to fight all of them, multiple times, over the three-hour duration of the test.

  Newly-minted Brown belt, March 2012

Newly-minted Brown belt, March 2012

The reality of it is I know my teacher, Shihan Alfred, wouldn't even have me test if he didn't think I was ready. The noise I'm hearing in my brain is just that - noise. And a big part of what we learn in karate is how to face our challenges, and to have faith in ourselves and our abilities. In fact, it's all right there in our dojo kun (mantra):

  Shihan Alfred DiGrazia

Shihan Alfred DiGrazia

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

That quote comes from the great philosopher Winnie the Pooh.

I'll check in again in a week or so to record my post-test thoughts. By then, if all goes well, I'll be sporting the black belt, and will have completed the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life.