The Elevator Paradox

elevator ride
Private, but in public (GIF via Diente Rojo Mx)

Practically every elevator has a camera yet everybody still messes around.

People do things on elevators they wouldn’t ordinarily do in public, such as picking their nose or smooching aggressively. Every action goes on record.

What is it about elevators that makes one feel private while acknowledging Orwellian presence?

My only guess is that elevators feel like traps. Because people can’t go anywhere and know they’re being watched anyway they do whatever they want.

Instead of installing discipline, elevator cameras ignite rebelliousness. People show similar insouciance to the NSA’s invasion of online privacy. The fear of being watched just compels users to fight the system and act with no restraints.

Most people just want to get on with the business of living. They’ll tug back when Big Brother encroaches. Like any animal, the smaller the cage the bigger the desire for absolute freedom.

Leave us alone and let us be or don’t; we’ll act freely anyway.


Trophy Duality

via giphy

The trophy, a means for celebrating an individual or team event; usually associated with sports. But there are also trophy wives and even trophy dogs.

There are two ways to look at trophies. One way is to use them as a reminder of past success. Doctors, dentists, and lawyers showcase their degrees and awards to clients to prove credibility and generate trust. It works.

The other reason to display trophies is to remind us of the work still to be done. Success is hard to repeat. After we graduate from school, the awards tend to end; people instead reward us with pay and loyalty.

A trophy might as well be a sticky note of things to accomplish, thrown away as goals come to fruition. The trash gets empty as soon as we decide to just “mail it in.”

Productivity is a habit. Do whatever it takes to keep shipping: use trophies for nostalgia to inspire future endeavors or as a carrot of things to accomplish.

The trophies atrophy as soon as we start to clean them off.

Train Watching

Image by Wells Baum

“There are few places more sedentary than a train car; there are also few better ways to see the world.” — Ben Crair

Riding the train is like being in a moving library with crowds of people sitting in proximity to each other but deeply immersed in their own thoughts.

The train paces itself like the mind. Ideas flow the longer they sit, building stronger connections as the train swiftly passes over the tracks. Bad ideas get tossed when the train wobbles left to right, like plunging water from the ears.

We have no choice but to sit and let our minds wander on the train. Constriction forces creativity. The luckiest passengers get a window seat to watch the world zoom by. Beautiful reflections bounce off the surrounding trees and walls of graffiti, temporarily tattooing the faces and arms of some passengers. Everyone shines like an artistfamous for 15 seconds.

“The road is better than the end.” — Miguel de Cervantes

The train travels ahead with time, as do our fast-paced lives. We actually soak up the entire riding experience but mentally star the highlights. All of a sudden the future and the past become the present.We are here now.

Producing for the masses

We live in the dawn of personalization, where aggregate data gathered through apps, social media behavior, and web surfing should be able to personalize our experience for just about anything. Diversity gets rewarded with stuff that you and only you, like. #gif
via giphy

Making for the masses taints the quality of the product.

The majority of the people appreciate what they get. They may even vote it up. Some people recognize the overt standardization and consume just to conform. It’s not worth tailoring a dish when it’s faster to eat what you’re served to survive.

We live in the dawn of personalization, where aggregate data gathered through apps, social media behavior, and web surfing should be able to personalize our experience for just about anything. Diversity gets rewarded with stuff that you and only you, like.

Still, there will be times when your choice is pre-determined along with everyone else’s, and there’s no way to order what you really like.

Standardization makes it easier for the makers to control consumption. All the ingredients and dish sizes are the same. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think everything is meant to be made and consumed in bulk.

No one has the same tastes, but most people have the same expectations. Demand better. Customization is the key to satisfaction.

Music and laughter

[bha size='120×120′ variation='01' align='alignright']John Cage on silence:

There was a german philosopher who is very well known, his name was Emmanuel Kant, and he said there are two things that don’t have to mean anything, one is music and the other is laughter. Don’t have to mean anything that is, in order to give us deep pleasure. The sound experience which I prefer to all others, is the experience of silence. And this silence, almost anywhere in the world today, is traffic. If you listen to Beethoven, it’s always the same, but if you listen to traffic, it’s always different.”

News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier

But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body.

…mathematicians, novelists, composers and entrepreneurs often produce their most creative works at a young age. Their brains enjoy a wide, uninhabited space that emboldens them to come up with and pursue novel ideas.

Anything in excess backlashes. In the age of distraction, knowing what to read is a vital skill.

Define your interest and identify the sources help you. Ignore the rest; they’re just headlines.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Hoodie

via giphy

Hoods are cheap instant anonymizers. They protected graffiti artists and skateboarders as they trespassed to perform their art. They protected muggers as they performed their art too.

I love the hoodie. I wear one to work at least twice a week. I don’t think of it as a rebellious symbol or a cloak, more of a convenience since you just throw it on. It also protects you for from the occasional unexpected drizzle.

What Vegas Teaches Us About Life

via giphy

There are so many life lessons learned in coming to Vegas, some trite but too true to ignore.

In no particular order:

  • The best things in life are achieved through raw, hard work and love for what you do
  • What goes up, must come down
  • Losing sucks, always
  • Fun is deceptive
  • The Chinese takeover is imminent, for real this time
  • Surprises are guaranteed
  • Weird is not necessarily creative, especially if it’s commercialized
  • Tattoos are meant to be temporary
  • Gambling releases dopamine but so does a like on Instagram
  • Be RƎVOLUTIONary and LOVE like the Beatles
  • Radiohead are the Beatles of our generation and nobody knows it
  • Have fun! It doesn’t last forever
  • Ignore society’s actors
  • Materialism is bunk
  • The ridiculous isn’t always remarkable when everything is ridiculous
  • Spanish is just as ubiquitous as English
  • Budgets are fragile
  • Overindulgence makes you fat, and bankrupt
  • Enjoy the ride because it’s damn short
  • Life can giveth and takeaway in a hot minute
  • Ersatz places, people, and things will never replicate the original
  • The trashy and classy lifestyle always coexist
  • What happens in Vegas, stays in life


The Gum Theory

The Gum Treaty is an unwritten global agreement that says people should withhold from throwing gum on the ground.

Gum should never hit the ground, period. Yet, we’re all culprits. There comes a time whether by accident or lack of resources, a trash can or leftover wrapper, our gum ends up on the floor.

The Gum Theory states that you’re more likely to step on a piece of gum for every time you throw one on the ground.

Call it what you want, gum quid pro quo or gum karma

Unless you live in Singapore, the gum treaty compounds.  Everybody breaks the rule.  At some point, you’re going to step on it and it’s going to stick.

Please consider what goes around comes around when you enjoy your next piece. 

Waiting in line

Photo by Ridham Nagralawala

We’ve all done it, skipped to the shorter line at the airport thinking the process will speed up only to see that the person who stepped in the longer line after us gets through security quicker. “Damn.”  The miscalculation only adds to the already incredible frustration of waiting in line.

Lines are aggravating not only because they impede progress but because they are a  waste of time. Fortunately, the mobile phone is an entertainment and social device, often saving us from boredom. However, the phone merely adds time to the queue.  With more people’s heads down it compounds the line problem further simply because no one is paying attention to what’s in front of them.

The feeling of being in line is what makes New York City incredibly frustrating. There’s never a shortcut through people traffic, only a way to slither in and out of head down mobile obsessed crowds like a snake. New York has a wild pace about it but this pace gets stunted by the millions of inhabitants walking the streets each day.  Lines also get worse in incompetent, careless places.

Standing at the DMV this weekend felt like entering the opening maw of hell. It’s already bad enough there’s an expected wait but the fact that DMV employees move like slow robots with little care for customer service makes it worse.  They know customers are stuck at their mercy. Might as well be a 4-hour prison.

We all know that lines suck and aren’t getting any faster any time soon. The world’s population is exploding, cities are already congested, and addicting Smartphone devices slow the pace down considerably. In fact, I just missed crossing the street because I was publishing this post.

(Post inspired by “Why Waiting in Line Is Torture” in the The New York Times)

They didn’t even have iPhones.

Atatürk, father of Turkey

via giphy

Atatürk did it all. From the 1920s – 1930s he gave birth to modern Turkey and transformed its alphabet, culture, education, economy, and its freedoms for women. There’s even a day to celebrate kids only, April 23, much like Father & Mother’s Day.

Walking through Ataturk’s memorial, you get the sense that he played the role of both Abraham Lincoln in uniting the nation and Martin Luther King Jr. in making equality and opportunity coexist. But he also played the role of teacher. Atatürk's library was extensive, full of Western literature including his own books on Geometry and Language. He was incredibly prolific in his writing which manifested in the beauty of his motivational speeches and quotes, like poetry.

There will never be another Ataturk, even the Turks acknowledge that. But Turkey today is still a reflection of Ataturk’s vision and thoughts. Turkey is a beautiful mix of Eastern traditions and Western practice, a culmination celebrated in its arts.

The history of Braille

via giphy

There’s only one language for the blind. It’s called Braille.

Before today, I knew nothing about the history of Braille:

Braille has its roots in the French army. In the early eighteenth century, a soldier named Charles Barbier de la Serre invented a code for military messages that could be read in the trenches at night without light; it used patterns of twelve raised dots to represent phonemes. The system was too complicated for the beleaguered soldiers to master, but when Barbier met Louis Braille, who had been blind since boyhood, the latter simplified the system into the six-dot version used ever since. Braille is not a language per se but rather a code by which other languages, from English to Japanese to Arabic…

Blind readers and writers can also see.  They activate the unused visual cortex and see their way through touch and sound.  They can even use their tongue to sense images.

Technology makes our brains even more plastic, rewiring them until the day we die.


Creation emerges from need.  Find a hole in the marketplace and fill it.  You do the work instead of waiting for others to make it for you.

That’s the story of Abe Burmeister and why he co-founded Outlier.

The Internet enables niche products to find any audience across the world.  With a direct to consumer website, an awesome product, and some marketing to build awareness, one can make it happen.

We can’t always depend on large brands to tailor products for us.

If you can’t find something, take a stab at making it yourself and building an audience on the Internet that will buy your stuff.

You don’t need salespeople, just a product designer, a website, and someone to tell the world about it and field emails and calls.

Stand still at your own frustration or come up with a solution that solves a problem for you and many others.  You just might end up building a company.